Page 33 - Volume 8, Issue 1 Winter 2013
P. 33

                                         MODERN TOOLS FOR IMPROVING THE
Christopher J. Struck
CJS Labs
57 States Street
San Francisco, California 94114
“Working Group S3-37 was
itself. Not only is 3 years a long commit- ment from the working group members, but given the progressively more rapid development of new technologies, it is also critical that a new standard is issued in the timeliest manner possible. Rather than revolutionize the entire process, focus was on improvement of this part of the critical path.
In the past, the development of
acoustical standards has followed
largely on the trailing edge of tech-
nology. Given the progressively more
rapid development of new technology,
it is critical that new standards be
developed when needed in the timeliest
manner possible. Furthermore, partici-
pants in working groups are volunteers
with limited time available for this important work. Budgetary constraints may also limit travel to in-person meetings for many persons otherwise interested in partici- pating and whose practical experience is essential to the process. On-line meeting and collaboration tools enable shorter, more effective, and more frequent meetings to move draft standards more quickly to a ballot-ready docu- ment. Documents can be edited collaboratively in real time using standard mark-up tools for immediate feedback from participants. This also enables participation across time zones. The use of a password protected “cloud network” ftp site for working group documents (e.g., drafts, reference documents, meeting minutes, etc.) eliminates unnecessary e-mail traffic with large attachments and enables partici- pants to access documents at any convenient time. A num- ber of tools and practices can be leveraged to improve the contemporary standards development process. A case study shows how this has worked in practice.
Issues with the process
It is the job of the working group chair to engage the group members, coax time out of their already overloaded schedules, as well as to garner consensus on sometimes con- tentious issues. Standards work, by its very nature, is done by a “Volunteer Army.” That is to say, it is no one’s full time job. In the past, the logistics of standards work meant that a work- ing group would typically meet face-to-face once or perhaps twice per year. In these economic times, even this may be prohibitive.
Practically, there are also issues with gathering informa- tion from the participants in an organized fashion, document review, sharing and version/change control, communica- tions, and generally working in a collaborative fashion.
Figure 1 shows a diagram of a portion of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) standards development process. From the perspective of a working group member (or chair), there are many decision points and actions outside the direct control of the working group. However, it can quickly be seen that the major development delay is with the working group
32 Acoustics Today, January 2012
able to reduce the entire
development time for
a revision to just under
9 months in 2009.”
A success story?
The annotation in the diagram indicates that Working Group S3-37 (which I chair) was able to reduce the entire development time for a revision of ANSI/ASA S3.25 to just under 9 months in 2009. Not surprisingly, there was no sin- gle “silver bullet” but instead a combination of efforts and established project management techniques newly brought to bear on the standards development process.
WG37 began with quick consensus on a draft docu- ment outlining the scope of the document revision, e.g., what was to be updated and what was not. This turned out to be essential to engage discussion, debate and eventual consensus. We then followed up with monthly on-line “Virtual Meetings” using WebEx and a conference call. We were aided by a resource provided by ASA, namely a pass- word-protected web site for depositing documents, includ- ing drafts, contributions, meeting minutes, and reference materials. As Chair, I was responsible for maintaining this site and for timely posting of all documents. This eliminat- ed spam emails with large attachments.
It was also advantageous that we stuck to a regular meet- ing schedule and protocol to keep everyone engaged. Another practice adopted by the working group was that at the end of each meeting, noted action items were assigned to individuals as “homework” due for the next meeting. Although somewhat new, this was surprisingly not the least bit controversial. Last but not least, lots and lots of follow up, follow up, follow up by yours truly...
Progressive versions of the drafts also made intense use of the “mark-up” tools within MS Word to track changes. Version control also enabled us to show cleaned up versions of new drafts (with the previous meeting’s changes accepted) but also to go back and undo if necessary. Another very effec- tive tool was the use of balloon comments for posing ques- tions to the group (e.g., “Should this clause be moved to an annex?”), responding to queries (e.g., “Why was this clause deleted?” “It wasn’t. It was moved to Annex C.”), and noting reminders to the group (e.g., “We need an updated reference for this...”).

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