ASQ is trying (again) to get a discussion forum board running on its website. Only members can post, but everyone can read it, and right now there’s a fairly remarkable exchange going on since early May launched by member Doug Sadtler. The discussion was over ASQ’s new policy to forcibly demand all Sections hand over their local funds for “centralized” management by the Milwaukee headquarters. That mandate, issued by ASQ’s Board without much (if any) input from Sections, has outraged members and Section leaders who are astonished to watch their hard-earned funds be ripped from their control.

Sadtler, the Section Chair of the Tennessee Section and a loyal soldier, made the newbie mistake of honestly raising a question about a sensitive issue. The conversation went about as expected — because he was speaking politely and professionally, and still supporting and praising ASQ overall, he was initially placated with personal messages from senior ASQ execs; but as his questions got more pointed, the discussion disappeared entirely. The ASQ Discussion Forum is not the best code in the world and doesn’t offer a search feature for non-member browsers, so the discussion may be there, but a few weeks later I can’t find it at all now. In its place are the usual pro-ASQ posts by fawning members.

(This same problem plagued previous incarnations of ASQ’s various forum attempts, with heavy-handed moderators — typically ASQ HQ staffers — deleting threads and discussions that were in any way critical, while allowing the saccharine sycophantic posts to survive.)

Fortunately, I captured the entire thread as a PDF you can read here.

Sadtler posted his notes from a recent May meeting with the ASQ Board of Directors, and his honesty was matched only by his naivety. Have a look (typos are his):

Money Disguised as an Elephant:

I will keep this one brief – while money is important to any venture, to a non-profit, it has a very poignant effect. When you give money to a corporation, you expect a financial return; when you give money to a non-profit, you expect a social return…something with a very different emotional attachment. For the record, I have never outright shunned the centralization of funds per ASQ’s request – what is ASQ’s…IS ASQ’s. My focus was never really monetary…my problem with centralization was in the communication thereof.

Pay attention: The centralization of funds under poor communication sent the message [the Perception] of loss of Autonomy.

Sections and Divisions have lost the ability to fully control what has been historically granted as “theirs.” Now, the reality of such is that as long as matters requiring fiscal resources are in the Section’s/Division’s Business Plan [and funding is available], they will still be able to count on the usage of those funds. Is $18.25 per Member enough to run a Section for a year? Probably not – while I wish this were slightly higher [a tradeoff for our autonomy?], the reality is that Sections will need a fundraising mechanism in their plans to sustain themselves. The addition of the external bureaucracy DOES introduce an approval process, and THIS is where centralization could inevitably introduce any “stickiness,” shall we say. Centralization is happening, so all that is left right now is to hold HQ and the BoD accountable to the process of maintaining Section/Division agility. Give it its chance, monitor ASQ HQ’s performance, and don’t be afraid to make a little noise if your autonomy is squeezed. If your Section/Division is in good-standing, you don’t need to be experiencing inconvenience from this initiative [ASQ Policy F10.02].

A subsequent post by Sadtler in the same thread; typos and all-caps are his, but red emphasis is mine:

Listen, I am continuing to think, and re-think, about the centralization of funds.  On point – the Sections that refuse to do their basic required functions…regardless of reason…are fueling this fire.  Do I believe it is THEE reason for centralization?  NOT FOR A MOMENT.  It is clear that ASQ HQ is in need of every dime it can muster, and it is clearly using some very convenient excuses to advocate for this.  Finance 101 says that in order to maximize your earned interest, you need to carry as much principal as you can, and that is what centralization accomplishes.  ASQ is subjugating Section and Division autonomy to maximize HQ’s financial positioning.  The NY State Law regarding personal privacy, for whatever relevance it MIGHT impose, is a Red Herring.  Hilliary Clinton’s Chappequa server would have far more relevance than whatever ASQ is blathering about in regard to such a thing.  With HQ admitting that operational expenditures are currently being mined from the Reserves Fund (Feb BoD Meeting), there is no question regarding why the centralization of funds is an important initiative.  ASQ’s operational budget is in the red, and while they have made expenditure cutbacks and deferred spending initiatives the last two years (at least), it hasn’t been enough.  The expenses of the Research and the IT Platform (along with other commitments) have exceeded available revenues.

That’s a stunning admission, and a public insight into the discussions that were going on behind the scenes. In short, ASQ is centralizing funds to increase its interest revenue on money that doesn’t really belong to it, and because their budgeting has otherwise failed. What’s not discussed is that much of this is due to former CEO Paul Borawski, who took home a massive salary, and Troy’s hamfisted management efforts that have alienated members.

Here’s another Sadtler post; again, typos are his, red emphasis mine:

“Will centralizing give any more value to our local members?”  No…probably not.  In the near-term, I expect non-compliant Sections to either secede, find committed members to take the reigns, fold, or go dormant until the Section can be revived.  I suspect that if a Section chooses dormancy, ASQ will choose to “fold” the Section so that the funds can be formally claimed by HQ.  This would need to be done in compliance with S02.00 Clause 4.12.1, under the verbiage of “to use reasonable and prudent efforts to assist any Section” – with regard to having some time to get committed Section Members to steward the Section funds.  The short-term does not look cheery for Sections – those being asked to turn over hefty sums of money should be rightly…I’ll say it, angry.  The Sections that put on regular events, and especially the ones who put on Conferences, are not being honored by this process.  In reducing and removing their autonomy and accountability of a local Treasurer, the Sections will become further disengaged.  Animosity will grow at Section level, and I expect this coming year or two to be an unholy mess.  I don’t mean to, or want to, be pessimistic, but it is clear that HQ has not considered the basic psychological consequence of what they are asking.  Adding headcount at HQ [that it cannot afford] at the expense of Section Treasurers is just insult to injury.  If you want to provide value to your local members, do everything you can to ensure that the proper content is being addressed, and that it is accessible by whatever means your constituents ask for.  Archive it if you have to, so that it can be accessed by those who were unable to attend live.  Planning your Section’s Annual Budget is CRUCIAL this coming year.  If you WANT to do it, budget for it.  It’s your Section’s money…until ASQ needs it.

There’s another angle that Sadtler hasn’t accounted for, and one that is likely to drive ASQ members absolutely ballistic (and already is): ASQ is increasingly finding itself in risk of litigation and investigation, and that means those Section funds may be used to pay for expensive legal battles that have nothing to do with the Sections themselves. ASQ does not appear to have any funds at all set aside for litigation, so that means if a suit comes to pass — and they recently ignored an unprecedented request by me to try to hash out the Oxebridge/ASQ problems before going to court, allowing their lawyers in the room even as I left mine out — If an Oxebridge lawsuit, Section lawsuit, or some other suit launched by an aggrieved party that is yet to identify themselves, comes to fruition, hundreds of thousands of dollars are likely to be taken from the Sections to pay for Troy’s and ASQ’s legal defense. We already know that ASQ mulled over suing Oxebridge and decided against it, and while much of that decision was likely due to the fact that they would be fighting a First Amendment free speech case (those never go well), I’m sure part of the discussion was related to how, exactly, ASQ intended to fund what would essentially be a lawsuit launched out of spite.

The Discussion Forum thread included some vague, “thanks for your input” posts by ASQ CEO William Troy and former BOD head Eric Hayler – the two presumed architects of the fund centralization plan – and you can see a starstruck Sadtler grateful for the attention of his gods, even as they are clearly blowing him off. Again, the entire conversation now appears to be wiped (someone send me a link if they can find it), and I’d bet Sadtler doesn’t realize he’s been duped. Sadtler appears convinced he’s “been heard,” a typical placebo response and a successful tactic for a leadership that has no intention on doing anything but occasionally forcing itself to listen to the whining masses, right before it goes on and does whatever the hell it wants anyway.

Sadtler, unsurprisingly, did not reply to my request to contact him about this.

Again, you can read the entire discussion thread in PDF form here.



    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 25 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.