Local Autonomy vs. Across the Board Consitency

In the thread: ** Keep FIRST in Michigan (FiM) from killing FIRST Lego League** part of the discussion has been on whether FiM should have age limts that are not aligned with those set by HQ. That part of the discussion at it’s core is about how much autonomy local FIRST leadership entities (Districts, Operational Partners, etc.) should have over their programs.

I thought it would be a good idea to spin off a thread to discuss this. So in your opinion, what level of autonomy should regions have to customize the programs for their needs vs. having standards and consistency across the board?

Obviously there is no right answer, and autonomy vs. consistency are not mutually exclusive. However with the district system becoming more prevalent, I see this becoming a more important conversation to have, and I am curious to see CD member’s opinions this.

I really like having “across the board consistency” with the games: the way they are played, scored, refereed, etc. Certain regions can have some latitude, but the strength of the programs is that everyone is playing the same game / completing the same tasks.


There’s a spotlight around somewhere about how the easiest way to make things unfair is to have different rules for different people. It’s true.

But, some autonomy is needed, too–you know, stuff “happens”.

Here’s my take on it: In all aspects of the game, consistency is king. You get more complaints when consistency is absent… In certain other aspects that can affect fairness, again, consistency rules. (One of those other aspects, IMO, is the age ranges/time-in-program limitations.)

But in terms of giving latitude: “add-ons” should have wide latitude. This could range from the DJ’s song list including more regional favorites to the addition of conferences and workshops to an event. Venue options should definitely be local. And of course, where there’s room for judgement in the rules, I think in those cases the appropriate enforcers of said rules should use said judgement–with the understanding that it is a judgement call, and therefore they should be careful.

I think there is plenty of room for local autonomy within “the ropes”. What I mean by ropes – thing that don’t preclude participation or call into question fairness.

What I have read (and all my knowledge is third-person) about FiM is that they want to change the age ranges on FLL, FTC and FRC inside of Michigan. In my opinion, that kind of local autonomy goes beyond “the ropes.”

Local organizations should be managing the feel of their programs but not the scope. Setting the foundation for a program should be the responsibility of one entity. The old saying “No one can serve two masters” might need to be changed to “No one can serve N masters with consistancy || N > 2” if every region, district, etc. decides to do things their own way.