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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

What Should PASS Be?


As he does so well, Andy Warren (Blog | @sqlAndy) has issued a challenge to the community: What Should PASS Be? I'm sure lots of people have responded already, but I've been struck by two: Grant Fritchey's (Blog | @GFritcheyWhat Should PASS Be? and Robert Matthew Cook's (Blog | @sqlmashup) [blog] What Should PASS Be? #sqlpass.

They're... Different

I don't know Robert well. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with Robert. It simply means he's one of hundreds of the cool SQL people out there with whom I haven't yet developed a relationship. I hope to remedy that soon. A quick search reveals he has over a decade of experience in database technology. I love interacting with folks with that amount of experience. I always learn new technical tricks, and I often glean professional insights as well.

Grant is a friend. We have a lot in common professionally and personally: we both work with SQL Server, we're both passionate about the community, we're both published and are writing now; we're both involved in Scouting and have reputations as being wallflowers when it comes to personality. Ok, that last one was to check if you were paying attention. In truth, Grant and I share a disdain for politics and a preference for an engineer's version of the truth.

I find the following response in Robert's post:

There is nothing I would “fix”.  Why did Andy place it in quotes?  To me there is nothing “broken”.  PASS has smart, caring and loyal members at all levels.

I understand the sentiment and agree with the last sentence.

Grant's post requests PASS concentrate on its strengths:

They’ve been trying to work on their perceived or actual weak points for years. Time to switch. Start working on the strengths. Even though it’s largely volunteer run, there’s more training coming out of the PASS organization than anywhere else. Focus there. Work the strengths of the organization. 

I think that's good advice.

My Two Cents

I think the PASS leadership needs to trust the PASS community. I would say they need to trust the SQL Server Community, but it's best they start small and work their way up. There are years of habits to adjust and, in some important cases, reverse.

It's good that PASS leadership is concentrating on process. It's important for everyone to recognize process is no substitute for execution. Process and execution are complementary, but make no mistake: you can execute without a process. Often, the first execution provides the template for future processes (this is called leadership). This template is dual-edged - as it matures it carries with it a mixed bag of this initial seeding. Some parts of the process grow to become weeds, other parts produce awesome fruit. Processes should be ever-improving: There should be tending; there should be pruning.

It's never acceptable to say "That's the way we've always done things."

My advice:

  1. PASS needs to put its community first. Currently, the PASS community is third; behind preservation of status quo of the PASS Board and sponsorship dollars.
  2. PASS needs to trust its community. This is not the same as putting the community first.


Throwing around generalities is a pretty safe strategy - it places the implementation up in the air and, when done, leaves residual platitudes. It's easy but it's not leadership. Here's how PASS can implement:

  1. Abandon the NomCom. The current main function of the NomCom is to provide an election straw man. "It wasn't Board's fault; it was the NomCom's." "It wasn't the NomCom's fault, the Board voted." Enough already. If one of the many imagined scenarios that currently justify the NomCom's existence emerges, I suggest the Board do something crazy: lead. Make a decision (and make the vote public). Take a stand. Make the call. Without excuse and without throwing (albeit willing) volunteers under the bus.
  2. Move the Summit in one upcoming year. Move it back to Seattle for the following year, but move it - once - to at least see the difference between real and imagined advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Transparency - communicate more. It'd be awesome to see "minority responses" written by those who disagreed with decisions. The notion of standing united costs more credibility than anything gained by projecting the appearance of solidarity.


Please do not confuse the popularity of a decision with its correctness - the two are decoupled. A popular decision != the right decision. The corollary also holds: An unpopular decision != a courageous decision.

Like Grant, I've gotten a lot out of PASS - more than I've put in. The training PASS offers is awesome. The community facilitated by the Summit is astounding. But all of this - all of it - is tainted by poor execution.



Published Tuesday, February 22, 2011 1:30 PM by andyleonard

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K. Brian Kelley said:

I'll disagree with you about the NomCom. If the NomCom has some autonomy from the board and is made up mostly of community representatives, then if the community doesn't like the board, it can speak to that effect by the candidates which the NomCom puts forward. Take a look at what's up on the ERC site about the nomination to the NomCom.

February 22, 2011 12:47 PM

Bill Graziano said:


Thanks for you comments.  Certainly some things to keep in mind as we keep working to make the organization better.


February 22, 2011 3:21 PM

Andy Warren said:

Andy, thanks for taking the challenge! Good to hear as many ideas and points of view as we can.

February 22, 2011 9:23 PM

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