ISA is changing

  • By Steven W. Pflantz

ISA recently made some big news in automation training. One of ISA’s most important and popular courses—Fundamentals of Industrial Process Measurement & Control (FG05M)—is now available in a modular format.

Instead of purchasing the entire course at once, you choose only the topic or “module” of online training content that meets your specific needs, budget, and schedule. And because instruction is provided in more “bite-sized chunks,” technical content is more easily digested and understood.

This is a great example of ISA changing with the times. The extensive use of mobile devices, shrinking training budgets, time constraints, and increasing demand for personalized information have changed the way instruction is designed, developed, and delivered.

Download the first FG05M module—Concepts of Process Control—for free to get a feel for modularized learning. It’s another way ISA can meet the needs of busy and cost-conscious automation professionals. Of course, ISA will continue to offer multi-day, instructor-led classroom courses. They will always fill an important role in providing more in-depth, hands-on laboratory instruction and personal engagement with the instructor and fellow students.

The key is that ISA is changing and responding to new approaches in online training and the shift in the way younger generations want to learn and access information.

In our planning meetings, it was interesting to listen to how some long-time ISA veterans interacted with many of our younger leaders and staff members. As you might imagine, most of the younger folks were strongly in favor of ISA offering modularized training options. A few humorous moments reminded me of the Muppet Show where the two elderly characters sitting up in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf, would grumble and be cantankerous.

Change is not always easy. It’s not always well received. But the familiar, often-cited definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results—applies here. We all tend to resist change to some extent. It is human nature to want to stay in our comfort zone.  There are times when staying the course is OK, but there are times when we have to get “with the program” and CHANGE! It can be scary and uncomfortable, but you are among friends, so why not give it a try?

If you think about it, change requires two essential components: (1) new ideas and (2) acceptance. I will say, it is harder to get new ideas out of the same group of people you’ve relied on for years than it is to get new ideas out of a new group of people. I’m not being disdainful. It’s just normal that you’ll get new perspectives, insights, and ideas when you attract new people. Bringing in new blood is vital to all organizations.

This brings me to the subject of diversity and inclusion. ISA needs to attract not only new people, but new people of diverse races, cultures, nationalities, backgrounds, and other human characteristics. ISA must respect diversity and ensure the equality of opportunity and participation of all people in the world if it is to grow and succeed.

It’s clear that ISA cannot simply trudge along in the way it has done in the past.  Those who do not accept change get left behind, and it is hard to be an industry leader from that position.

A necessary first step is being open change. Accept the change reality.

I was talking with a fellow ISA member a few years ago at the end of a team-building exercise. He said: “I learned that things don’t always have to be done my way to work. There are other ways to get good or better results and I need to learn to be more open to what other people suggest.”

Bingo. We’re all part of a team and we need to stop worrying about who came up with this or that idea and get more focused on putting them into action. By working together, we can meet the demands of change.