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Out with the old. . .


A new president, a new crisis and a new set of distractions loom at Great George Street, it would seem.

The mixed reception to news of Mike Casebourne's sudden departure no doubt mirrors feelings about Mark Whitby's impending presidency.

But certainly Casebourne will deservedly walk with ease into a new private sector position which both suits and interests him far more. And Whitby will use his considerable passion and enthusiasm to drive a successful and memorable presidency.

But the failure of Sir Alan Cockshaw's vision is a blow. The far-sighted, risky, decision to pull the ICE into the real world by adopting more private sector practices and thinking should have enabled the organisation to reflect its members needs better and present a more coherent front for the profession. And in many ways it did.

The chief executive's role was to define and set strategy for the elected and non-elected management team and drive the delivery through results. After 18 months of searching, Casebourne was chosen for his track record of getting things done rather than his political skills.

And it is undeniable that he made significant inroads into some very difficult territory. Yes, he has stepped on a few landmines lying in wait. But he has also fought hard to keep the ICE on course through the Sartor and then single member debates, while keeping alive essential but increasingly strained relationships with the Engineering Council and the other professional institutions.

The ICE now has a membership structure which avoids elitism and allows the doors to remain open to a broad and highly qualified profession.

More than that, it has key and influential roles at all levels of the developing son-of-EngC the Engineering & Technology Board (ETB) - vital if the ICE is to lead from the front of this new organisation.

There is still work to do. The ICE has yet to clear the hurdle of its deferred ETB audit, without which its ability to qualify chartered engineers will be in doubt.

And it has to complete its work to devolve autonomy to the local associations and regions.

Whether a change in personality at the top of these negotiations will help is debatable.

For while it is clear that Casebourne's private sector, resultsdriven, some might say abrasive, style has caused some upset - and the departure of a number of staff - it is arguably a necessary quality of the egg breaking, omelette making role that Cockshaw strove so hard to introduce. Casebourne was not, after all, employed as a facilitating secretary.

That the final decision over Casebourne's sudden departure was made by the executive rather than the Council that appointed him is an interesting pointer towards the likely future model for ICE management.

But will, as Whitby indicates this week, the ICE be better served by a more powerful executive committee in charge of the big decisions with a director general to marshal implementation, and Council left to debate the issues of the day?

The ICE executive board and Council members must now decide just what they want to achieve before throwing the next candidate into the fray.

How this is decided - and made relevant to those outside Great George Street - will be crucial.

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