Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest Post: Serge Gladkoff's Response to the GALA Controversy

Serge Gladkoff was kind enough to post a response to my previous post, but since I don't want it to be buried in the comments section, I am promoting it to a full entry, so that it is more visible. Please notice that he states that this is NOT GALA's official position, just his opinion. I am inserting answers to his questions in italics.

Hi Renato,

Here, in your blog, I can respond more freely, since it would be most inappropriate for me to discuss GALA in the group where I am Administrator.

There are lots of things mixed in in your post and in replies to your post, so I will enumerate them.

1. Renato, may I ask you why do you think GALA is the only Association that should not hold conferences, when ALL other Associations (LISA, ALC, ELIA) are having them? You are writing that GALA all of a sudden became competition to LISA and ALC - a) this is not the case actually, b) it has all the right to be competition though, and c) it is wrong to say that GALA should always keep low profile and do not do this and that. It's the same as to say that ALC should not hold conferences because it creates competition to LocWorld, for example. Free market is a free opportunity for everyone.

Because GALA is the newcomer and because it had vowed - at its inception - not to organize events, but to co-locate their events with other organizations. And I am not asking GALA to keep a low profile, I want it to take a leadership and high-visibility position, and I don't believe that organizing events is the best, nor the most profitable way to achieve this.

2. Another comment is that all the initiatives that you have outlined are less than perfect to generate revenue - at least, just yet. In fact, GALA has pioneered a lot of these ideas already - joint exhibits (first in the industry!), joint ads (first in the industry!), collaboration with others in the industry (GALA is arguably the leader in these kinds of efforts). They're great ideas, but haven't yet lead to substantial revenue (except possibly in the collaboration case, and the revenue went to everyone BUT GALA). The fact remains that conferences are #1 events for Associations, across all industries, for a number of reasons.

You argument is "because it is like this for everyone else, it has to be like this for GALA." This is the argument of a follower, not a leader. When I say that I want GALA to take a leadership position, I mean that I want it to be different. In my post, I gave examples of initiatives that could be done by all associations, not only by GALA. All of them have issues. Two of them have contacted me asking how I thought they could implement some of my ideas. GALA seems to have adopted a defensive position.

3. I personally agree that there are probably too many events in the industry, but this is unavoidable in a sense - real Karl Marx, "the crisis of overproduction" :). The number of products in the sector indicates maturity of a sector. It is unfair to pound one particular player for this. What I can say is that this wider landscape gives more variety for industry players. Weaker programs may suffer, but there are more opportinity for ideas, in general. What I can say is that we definitely not need five events of ONE organization in one year - let it be five DIFFERENT events :).

Serge, you make good points from the point of view of supply. But what about the demand? As Common Sense Advisory asked several years ago in its report Best and Worst Language Conferences, what is the ROCA (Return on Conference Attendance) for so many events? Instead of organizing different events in different cities with essentially the same program, why not piggy-back them? Why do I have to go to Prague and Miami in May? Collaboration might include agreeing on doing different events at the same location. My frustration is that the discussion starts with the wrong premises. The whole GALA Event controversy starts with the posit: "We need to make money, so let's organize a conference." It would be better if it started like this "Our members need something, let's do it."

4. Timing and cooperation - cooperation does not mean that all requests are granted and all comes to the best of everybody. I personally understand Marta's frustration about GALA 2010 timing, but the wheels for GALA 2010 were in motion far in advance, and it may not be possible. That does not mean that GALA is not cooperative at all. There are couple of things that are beyond our control - for example, there's SAP Forum in May too, etc. Besides, ALC should not be worried because European events actually do not compete with USA events - the audiences are typically different. It is true that actual cooperation is horrendously difficult to achieve, and instead of complaining, a lot of patience is required.

When you say that European events do not compete with USA events, you justify my argument. Let the Europeans (EUATC, ELIA) organize their events and let the Americans (ALC, ATA-TCD) organize theirs. Let GALA get their help to work on other initiatives. I always proposed that events should be local and regional, and larger initiatives like standards and PR should be global. What I can say from the conversation that I have had with other associations, is that contrary to what you say, GALA has not been cooperative, but confrontational, in the last couple of years.

5. In my personal view, GALA is very far from getting to lose its leadership. On the contrary, it is on the rise, and I can see this from inside as Board Member. There are lots of ideas in circulation, we have a VERY strong Board this year, and the plans are huge. Yes, I do not know what are the presentation topics of GALA 2010, but I am confident that the program is going to be great, I have enough information about that as insider.

Leadership is earned, not claimed. You cannot say "We are the leaders," with any credibility. As for the content of the event, maybe with the exception of the keynote speaker (if you are paying for one), I probably have all the speakers of the next GALA event in my address book, and if I thought hard about it I could probably even tell you the subjects that will be covered. So, although I can agree that the content will be great, I seriously doubt that it is going to be DIFFERENT.

6. You are writing that you feel betrayed. Renato, excuse me, but it shows... I don't know what is the essence of a conflict between you and GALA, but am sure that GALA would be cooperative. Or so I think.

I have stated the reason why I feel betrayed under your first point. GALA vowed not to organize events. It was going to be a different association. Guess what: It is organizing events and it is just like any other association. I feel betrayed because the only reasoning that I hear is: We need revenue, we need revenue, we need revenue. How about value for the membership? How about innovation? How about being run as a non-profit/non-revenue interest group or think tank? LinkedIn and industry blogs have done more to advance relevant discussions in the industry than GALA, or any other association for that matter.

7. We can ask, is it a good thing for the indistry that GALA organizes events, or bad thing? Well, the only answer is this: if GALA manages to create good event, AND be cooperative with other constituencies, it is definitely good for the industry. IF GALA is not successful, then it's bad :).

No comment.

8. GALA Board is NOT a groupthink. We express contrary opinions. But as decision is made, we support it. That's the only way to work, otherwise it's not the working group, but bazaar.

Sorry, Serge, but what you just described IS groupthink. According to your source, Wikipedia:

"Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight."

9. Re: "I heard that GALA has taken arrogant position to ELIA" - a) it is wrong to repeat other people opinions (due to the effect of "broken phone"), b) I can assure you that GALA IS cooperative, and yes, there may be personal frictions, but these are somewhat inevitable due ot differences in personalities, you just need to be patient.

I was trying to be polite. The correct statement is that "I KNOW that GALA has taken an arrogant position towards ELIA," because I was there when it happened. And I haven't heard of one-sided cooperation. It takes two to tango! True leaders can overcome personal frictions. 

10. GALA Cancun was great. The lasting effects you will see.

I will take your word for it, but I am not holding my breath :)

11. Interviews on local TV channels, Renato - I leave this prerogative to you :). I don't think at all that TV is the channel for our industry. TV is, clearly, a consumer channel and we are in B2B sector.

I beg to differ. There are countless business programs on TV. And CEOs and VPs and Localization Managers also watch TV, read Oprah magazine, and listen to the radio. At least I do! Furthermore, I would speculate that between 25% and 30% of all the work done by GALA members is B2C, not B2B. Don't the needs and interests of these members matter? 

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you do, what matters is who and how many you reach. How do you influence the conversations, how do create perception in the mind of people. This is where I expected GALA to be leading. Instead, it wants to organize events... go figure.

12. Vocal disagreements should be constructive. I don't think that you did best to support GALA as GALA member and in fact ELIA Board member. Perhaps we could bridge the divide between GALA and ELIA somehow?

Now we are talking. I and the rest of the Board of ELIA will be happy to talk with GALA and any other association for that matter. GALA's PR person, Rebecca Petras, has suggested a PR Summit for the industry. When can that happen? I propose Istanbul in April or Berlin in June.

Finally, for the record, from a visibility and influence inside and outside the industry perspective, I believe that Common Sense Advisory and the ATA have established a leadership position in 2009, because of their effective public relations efforts.


- Luigi, gaining visibility are NOT NECESSARILY contrary to the spirit of cooperation. :)


1 comment:

  1. Renato/Serge -

    If nothing else you both have created awareness for a group that many, including myself, have felt irrelevant.

    To give validity to Renato's points I have always viewed GALA as one of the many also rans in the industry trying to capitalize on the growth of the industry. I have never viewed GALA as a leader. I do not state this maliciously, but simply sharing what has been my perception.

    I would encourage and challenge GALA to change my opinion.

    In business we differentiate and establish our niche markets. We build out a space and try to own that space in the minds of our consumers. It is an important point to remember and one that I know Renato has been preaching for years.

    I believe that it behooves all associations to do something similar.

    To Serge's points regarding revenue and conferences. I agree. It is by far easier to generate revenue by hosting a conference than the alternative methods Renato describes. That being said it is not impossible. I would put forth the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare as an example.

    The NCIHC has focused on developing standards for Healthcare Interpreting, Codes of Ethics, and Training. They live off of the sweat of their board and committee members. They are by far the leading professional association in Healthcare Interpreting. They offer a list serv that is active with discussions on a daily basis and is followed by most every stakeholder in the industry. They have recently been challenged by other organizations and the result has been a general negative repurcussion to those associations. Why? Because the NCIHC was there first. They built out there space. They own it.

    Being actively involved in professional associations throughout my career I am also challenged by Renato's points and I think that it is an incredibly rewarding conversation to have.

    Ideally, the language services industry in its broadest context - including localization, translation, interpretation, etc. would be best served by a coordinated effort that promoted the overall development and professional recognition that we all crave.

    I applaud both of you for having this conversation in such an open manner. It is good for all of us.

    Thank you.

    Douglas Green
    VP, Business Development
    Translation Source