Successful leaders adapt in fast changing world

IEC President James Shannon addresses Council

Our world is changing rapidly and technologies are converging all around us. Enhancements in communications, renewable energy, medical devices and many other areas have improved health, economic safety and development, which can benefit everyone.

Jim Shannon during his address to IEC Council in Vladivostok 2017
IEC President James Shannon addresses Council during the General Meeting in Vladivostok

The internet of things (IoT), smart cities, smart grids and cyber security are some of the key areas of IEC work, which require the adoption of more creative ways of working with industry and other organizations than ever before.

Addressing his first Council meeting as President since taking up the role in January 2017, Shannon began by thanking three IEC leaders – Dr Junji Nomura, his predecessor as President for his leadership, Dr Åke Danemar, outgoing Treasurer, and Dr Ulrich Spindler, outgoing Chair of the Conformity Assessment Board (CAB), for their dedication and hard work (see also Don’t be a fool, follow the rule and Exciting times ahead in this issue).

IEC plays vital role in technology advancement

Through its standardization and conformity assessment activities, IEC plays a vital role in the advancement of technology, the facilitation of trade and, its main purpose, the improved safety, security and well-being of people everywhere.

The President noted, “We must never let our past accomplishments become a justification for complacency. We can never allow ourselves to say, ‘We have always done it this way’. We must recognize that we are not living in ordinary times and our ability to continue to be an organization the world looks to for leadership will depend on how well we adapt to the changes taking place all around us. Perhaps the most obvious changes that we all see are the rapid developments in technology that affect all of us”.

Many advanced technologies allow IEC to involve more people from more parts of the world in its processes. “We can collaborate with other organizations more effectively and share the benefits of its work more quickly. We have to because our customers want it and it is what the world needs”.

Rethinking how IEC works

In order to advance technologies, IEC must examine how it works and find creative ways to improve processes. It must also partner with more small and medium enterprises and groups such as consortia, which have not previously participated, but are the preferred place for standards development for many advanced technologies.

Moreover, because of the convergence of technologies, everyone must be adept at working across disciplines. The President gave examples of some steps that have already been taken towards achieving this:

  • IEC participates in a formal mechanism for working with ISO and ITU in the World Standards Cooperation (WSC). In September, the three organizations signed a letter calling for greater coordination at national level, particularly in emerging subject areas, to streamline processes and prevent duplication of effort. This coordination will lead to more efficient use of resources and greater clarity for our stakeholders (See also IEC ISO and ITU sign world smart city Letter of Intent in this issue).
  • During this year’s ISO General Assembly in Berlin, Shannon and the ISO President and President-elect declared their intention to begin the process of developing common IT systems for the two organizations and their respective members.
  • Additionally, the IEC Council Board (CB) would review a recent policy change that prevented some people involved in governance of other organizations from serving in similar positions in IEC. The purpose of this policy was to avoid conflict of interest, but there was never any intention to erect a wall between IEC and other organizations. IEC will address this issue in a less stringent way and do whatever it can to encourage collaboration with other organizations that share its goals.

Transparency and openness will achieve consensus

The President commended IEC General Secretary, Frans Vreeswijk for his letter to the National Committees (NCs), in which he set out important steps to increase transparency, communication and collaboration with IEC. Steps already taken in the past year include:

  • Establishment of a fully functioning Finance Committee, which is working with the Central Office on the Budget and financial oversight of the organization.
  • Establishment of an Audit Committee to further ensure the financial soundness of IEC.
  • In response to feedback from several National Committees, which have expressed a desire to participate in various aspects of the Masterplan implementation, IEC is currently working on a system which would create an atmosphere for the maximum feasible participation, as it moves this important plan ahead.

The way forward

IEC has spread the benefits of electricity and electrotechnology to the world for the past 111 years. It has achieved this through broad international cooperation and bringing global experts together to carry out standardization activities.

Despite the astounding changes that have occurred during this time, the technical revolution is just beginning and by implication, so is the work of IEC.

The President concluded with the following thoughts:

“We also know that our fundamental belief in the very concept of international cooperation and international trade is under attack today in ways that none of us could have imagined just a few years ago. So this is the time to re-affirm our belief that broad international consensus on important issues can still be achieved, that openness and transparency are the best way to achieve that consensus, and that collaboration with like-minded organizations is the fastest route to progress. Your commitment to IEC's vital mission and your willingness to share your expertise and experience are what the reputation of this great organization is built on”.