After Obvious Failure of Transparency, CEO Says He’s Learned a ‘Lesson’
On Wednesday, CEDIA Global President and CEO Daryl Friedman sent a letter to all members advising them that the election process for new Board members has been completed – and that the slate of three Board-selected candidates for the three open Board seats has now been filled by Stephan Goodhue, Jennifer Mallett, and James Ratcliffe. The cheery tone of the letter belies the fact that the election process was viewed by many as tainted and has inflamed anger from what seems to be a fairly significant percentage of members who resent losing the opportunity to vote for a candidate of their choice.
However, in this letter, Friedman did allow that “…we need to do a better job of communication.”
See more on the CEDIA letter to members
The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) says its members have ratified a slate of three candidates for the three open seats on the Board of Directors. In announcing the results, CEO Friedman said he was “…pleased to report that the membership endorsed the Governance Committee’s work, 89% to 11%.” This means that of the members participating in the voting process, 89% of them voted “yes” or in the affirmative to this proposed slate of candidates.
An Anxiously Anticipated Election Announcement
I’ve been anxiously anticipating this announcement, curious to see if anyone would vote against the slate. Normally, I would assume those who do not support the slate would simply choose to exit the process and not vote at all.
But ever since this issue flared up, I’ve been hearing rumors that there might be a protest vote in which some percentage of members would actively issue a “no” vote or in the negative to the proposed slate. I had imagined that a protest vote of maybe two or three percent of the voting members might be possible. But I was wrong…
A Protest Vote is Precisely What Happened
We now know that the rumored protest vote is precisely what happened. Fully 11% – a statistically significant, double-digit percentage of the participating members – did actively vote against this slate. That active “no” vote should be troubling for the Association…whether they perceive it or not.
Consider this: later in the same letter, Friedman reveals that the membership in CEDIA has grown 11.8% to achieve 4,000 members. That growth is certainly good news for them. However, Friedman noted that a total of only 240 members participated in the vote this year versus 202 last year. Ever positive, he presented this 19% greater number of members voting as good news, adding he hopes this participation continues to grow.
CEDIA’s Old Bugaboo is Back
But these numbers reveal the issue that member engagement – a continual bugaboo for CEDIA – is still painfully low. Those 240 members who participated in the Board election process represent only 6% of the 4,000-member association.
Not only that, but while I can’t prove it, I suspect some of that 38-vote increase in participation this year was for those protest votes against the slate. So I guess you could say that, in a way, the Board found a way to increase member engagement…but not necessarily in a positive way.
CEO Acknowledges They Need to Do a Better Job
Friedman seems to allude to the controversy that erupted when he said, “One important lesson I learned during this election is that we need to do a better job of communication regarding our governance.” I would agree with this statement, the association did a very poor job of communicating important changes to an important process in the eyes of many members.
The bottom line is that this was an unforced error by the organization that unnecessarily stirred up a controversy that only deepened as they tried to explain – after the fact – the thinking behind their decision to shift to a slate approach mid-process and with no notification to the membership. How can you complain about the lack of engagement by the members, when the Board, Governance Committee, and the administration itself failed to engage with the members on this important matter? I believe it was this lack of consideration for the members that resulted in generating an angry response that was completely predictable.
Adding Governance Section to Website
In any event, to improve communications, Friedman announced that the association will launch a new “governance” section on its website. And this new section will include: access to the organization’s bylaws, a list of the members on the Governance Committee, the Board candidate questionnaire being employed, and the candidate attributes being evaluated to see how the “potential candidates align with CEDIA’s priorities.”
This section of the letter intrigued me. For those of you who read my first post on this issue, I noted that a source had come to me alleging that the association had violated its own Bylaws. Well, I thought to myself, that will be easy to verify. I went on the org’s website to locate a copy of the Bylaws, but they were nowhere to be found.
Why Were the Bylaws Removed from the Website?
In years past, this kind of documentation was always available on CEDIA’s website. I had some older copies I had printed out in the past, but I needed the current version, which I was forced to reach out to CEDIA to obtain. It is great that they are fixing this broken system again, but I find it troubling that someone at the association had decided to remove them in the first place.
CEDIA’s CEO finished out his letter to members with two additional bits of news. First, he noted that 300 members attended the CEDIA Advocacy Town Hall at last month’s Expo and further asked members to get involved by reaching out to their state and federal representatives on behalf of their integration profession. Second, he revealed some long overdue first steps to try and address the labor shortage we face in our industry (and almost every other industry for that matter.)
Troubled by the Lack of Transparency
Summing up this whole Board election fiasco, I’ll say this – I am troubled by the lack of transparency exhibited by this Board, which contains many good people…and by this new administration. Perhaps, giving the benefit of the doubt to these good people, it was perhaps an unintentional oversight. Perhaps it was poor judgment.
However, when it blew up, management pushed back, dug in their heels on supporting the changed process, and never acknowledged the legitimate concerns that many members had raised with this new, unannounced change. A new process, I might add, that to many members looked as though it was a deliberate attempt to disengage them from the Board selection process and to elect the new Board members that the Board wanted…
A new good ole’ boys club if you will.
Hopefully, an Aberration
Let’s hope this turns out to be an aberration and the Board and new administration will pay closer attention to transparency and member engagement. Says Friedman in his letter, “The Board of CEDIA and I are committed to clear and transparent communication with our members…”
And to that comment I’ll say this, actions speak louder than words…
Learn more about CEDIA by visiting cedia.net.