November 1st, 2015
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is about to announce their new CEO. This new hire replaces Ash Sahi, the former CEO that RestoreCSA managed to chase out the door late last year. Since Sahi’s firing, the CSA has been run by a committee of executives and, as everyone knows, the best way to efficiently and decisively run any organization is through an unwieldy, bureaucratic committee.
So there’s a new boss coming. Well, the new CEO will sure have a lot of headaches to handle. Employees at CSA know very well what’s needed, and there’s some worry among them that their newly hired renovator won’t renovate. Yet there’s no shortage of work to be done.
Said one employee; “other than Ash Sahi’s padded resume, most of your findings do not surprise me.” And most of the worries found in our findings are the result of CSA’s poor senior leadership.
We’re “known for a lack of due diligence on new hires” said one source, “even [in] senior positions.” The most senior leaders are nominally a team, yet within this team, like a subset of the team, are a group of Vice Presidents known for ineptitude and, in some circles, gratifying underachievement; they’re most memorable for being instantly forgettable. “Never reads a new book; never thinks a new thought” -that sort of thing.
This little group of biggies “had worked out a sort of [club] in which each knew they were incompetent, but so were all the others. Nobody held anyone accountable, since it was a case of mutually assured destruction.”
Ash Sahi only tinkered with their club, moving heads from job to job from time to time, and only ever removing one of them from her position as Chief Information Officer.
“Duncan Cowie was one of the few executives at CSA with anything resembling a sense of urgency. Definitely not a member of the [club].” Actually, we know Duncan Cowie. He approached PS Knight, owner of RestoreCSA, in 2003 to convey CSA’s interest in acquiring our company. The surreal story of CSA’s attempted purchase is worth reading. Anyway, apparently Cowie was fired for adding his Chinese girlfriend to the Agency’s payroll. Then he moved to China.
Inconsistency is another worry for the incoming CEO. Whereas Cowie was fired for nepotism, elsewhere in the Agency it’s quite popular.
For instance, “years ago, Rich Weiser got hired at CSA because his father, Richard L. Weiser, worked there.” Then Barb Weiser was added to the payroll. That’s his wife, of course. Probably a coincidence.
Want to understand CSA’s executive personnel problems? Four quotes explain it all:
1. “The deal at CSA was basically this: [They saw themselves] as a quasi-government agency, they had great benefits, job security, and low salaries [and] just like a government agency, their salary structure led to hiring many people with limited experience.”
2. “Over time, the best and brightest moved on to higher paying positions outside the company.”
3. “Those who remained were able to use seniority to rise far beyond their qualifications, knowing that they would never have to compete with outsiders earning market salaries.”
4. “Once in a while, CSA would scoop up a manager or executive who was between jobs, but they never really competed with other employers for high-value employees. Sometimes CSA found a bargain, but mostly they got what they paid for.”
Quite right. RestoreCSA has heard from numerous insiders and they’re all pretty consistent in their descriptions.
The CSA has been run by committee for nearly a year and a new CEO is warmly welcome. The renovations at CSA are long overdue, and a new renovator is an opportunity for recovery.
The Agency can indeed be recovered, public trust returned, and its standards raised. Should the new CEO undertake this difficult work, he or she will have our full support.
Let’s restore CSA.