Standardization News

How To: Lead a Virtual Task Group

The task group is the heart of standards development, and its leader — the task group lead, chair, or technical contact — drives the process.

In this role, the lead organizes technical discussions, develops (and/or oversees the development of) drafts of standards, and submits items to ballot. Today, this work largely happens virtually.

ASTM International has supported virtual tools and platforms for years to enable the broadest participation available. With the pandemic forcing many to work remotely, these technologies have been crucial to supporting standards development. And while the overall responsibility stays the same, some tasks have changed in our current virtual world. 

Work item registration, one of the first steps in developing, revising, or reapproving a standard, always takes place through myastm.astm.org. In the current virtual meeting environment, there are some differences to note. Task group leaders or technical contacts now need to gain approval for these efforts through email with subcommittee chairs. They also now need to seek out key stakeholders and invite their participation rather than ask for participation by raising hands at the end of a meeting.

With all standards development meetings being held virtually at least through February of this year, task groups need to plan accordingly. Requests for meetings on Webex (the virtual meeting platform that ASTM utilizes) need to be made of ASTM staff. Once scheduled, task group leaders, with assistance from staff, need to send calendar invites to task group members and other interested stakeholders. Just like in-person meetings, virtual meetings are more efficient when the lead has a detailed agenda and prepared meeting materials are distributed ahead of time. Closing reports from ballots with negatives and comments can be downloaded through MyASTM and used to guide conversations. 

Remember to make use of the ASTM collaboration area. With this tool, you can track conversations and activity; access and put the polling tool to use for standards work and to choose future meeting dates; and gain general consensus on specific sections or direction of work. The collaboration area also provides the opportunity to make a direct request for a Webex meeting, post related files, and share drafts of standards/revised standards in between meetings.

Note that when using Webex, users have access to its latest upgrades including polling, breakout rooms, multiple meeting hosts, “raise hand” tools, chat features, and more. Training is available on the Webex tools, and a User’s Guide has been developed specifically for ASTM members, as well as a checklist of task group chair/technical contact responsibilities.

Also remember to visit the Standards Development links found on the Technical Committees page. Draft standard templates, Form and Style for ASTM Standards, and more can be found there.

If you have any questions, please contact your staff manager. ■

Katerina Koperna is a staff manager at ASTM International.

REGS CORNER

Task groups should represent a balance of interests wherever possible and appropriate, although society and committee membership is not required.

Other than establishment and discharge, there are no requirements for task groups. Task groups are established by the subcommittee chair or by majority approval of the voting members of the subcommittee by ballot (if meeting in person, this action can happen then). Their discharge requires concurrence of the task group chair and subcommittee chair or majority approval of the voting members of the subcommittee by ballot.

Formal balloting is not required at the task group level. Discharge may occur with completion or cause to abandon the activity.

Issue Month: 
January/February
Issue Year: 
2021