To make reading easier, a non-public copy of this post is also on Medium at:
https://medium.com/@Duke3D/this-article ... a6bfc9545e
I am very appreciative of the hard work by the Structure Committee. It has been a long process to get to the point where a proposal is before the community.
I am also grateful for the many thoughts that have been shared that have helped to crystallize some of the issues and have reinforced some of my thoughts about the path we should take from here.
Since context is important for some, know that I have not served on a Leadership Team and I did serve actively on the latest Governance Working Group that reported out at Jab14.
My feedback on the proposal? If I had a vote, I would vote it down and the primary reason is that it removes a natural tension that comes from having an independent board and it is a huge painful big-bang change that I view as an excessive response to our situation that could break us instead of making us better. From an academic perspective, the proposal embodies some very lofty ideals that would improve the democratization and potentially some of the workflows of the project. From a practical perspective, it tries to fix too many things at once, some of which are not all that broken, and in doing so the organization will be excessively disrupted to the brink of having management forked when we try to shove some of our square peg volunteers into some of these round holes - I foresee and don't want to risk abandonment of the project.
But do I want this proposal to end here? Absolutely NOT!
We can question the process (as others have) by which this was rolled out as a single “silver bullet” solution, the lack of consensus building in the process and any possible COI of the leaders that will have to vote on this, but that is not getting to the issues either.
CAN WE TRY A PLAN-B?
So, in the spirit of trying to improve the proposal into something that can and should be approved, allow me to A) walk through the issues that are motivating change, and B) see if there is a Minimum Viable Proposal (MVP) that the Leadership could and should consider as a Plan-B if the currently proposed Plan-A does not get the votes it needs.
On the one hand, I fully appreciate the desire for absolute clarity about all the details of the plan. But, a plan completed to that degree is like the waterfall approach to programming. I feel we could get locked in to early and cannot adjust the plan because the details were already voted on and therefore an amendment and another vote would be required. But on the other hand, we have a culture of distrust when it comes to how the legal part of our organization gets managed. Some of this is due to echoes of Miro’s footsteps still being in the hallways, and some of this is just healthy testing of the envelope.
The structure team has placed at the beginning of the proposal, a comprehensive Design Brief for issues that we all want solved. Some are due to structure, and others are due to culture, community behavior and good business processes that are independent of structure. The good news is that by doing so, the members of the community that need to see more of the finished big picture concept of the long term objective, have some idea of the grand design that some of the Structure Team members have in mind. The bad news is that the proposal is not written as a complete and actionable implementation plan and so there is a huge disconnect. People are being asked to approve taking the first steps of an implementation plan without feeling like they have those steps defined clearly enough to vote on. Complicating this is seeing Structure Team members who interpret the same Proposal differently with regard to some of the less defined details and that causes concern about the authority being delegated into an undefined, large or small transition group to make it up as they go along. It's not that we distrust the volunteers on that team; it's that more eyes and input leads to better results and this task is too critical to our survival to settle for 'close-enough.'
We cannot get to a fully defined plan before a decision is made to begin the project — that’s taking the waterfall approach — if we wait for every detail to be developed before we start, we will get mired. Instead we should approach the restructuring just like we approach the Roadmap for the CMS. We put the objectives out there. We prioritize and sequence them. But we only take Pull Requests related to the issues and features in the upcoming release and nothing more. Advance work can be done in a separate branch, but it doesn’t get merged for implementation (and voted on) until we get to that important but future step in the sequence.
Let’s step back a step —
Why do we need to “do something”? First, know that I am not on an LT so I have an outsider’s perspective. But, I have worked on several Working Groups and I have seen the dysfunction. There is a reason that in the last four years, three restructuring plans have been proposed and considered by the Leadership. It IS because something IS Broken. It is because we have issues that are keeping us from being as nimble as our marketplace. Cross-team decisions are made at the speed of glaciers despite the best intentions of very dedicated volunteers.
The first driver does have to do with OSM changing its charter in 2010 and having to follow through with implementing some changes. But, that ONLY AFFECTS OSM as a legal board. It has no impact on CLT or PLT. The Governance Working Group (GWG) that met prior to JAB14 was tasked with solving only OSM’s issues. It was when OSM took the matter to CLT and PLT that the idea came up of also solving the siloization problem between the team. Had CLT and PLT not jumped into the discussion and entertained the idea of improving how ALL THREE teams operate, OSM would have solved their issue by now and we wouldn’t be sitting here. The suggestions that OSM is power mongering are completely out of place. In fact quite the opposite. If the good volunteers that we all nominate to serve on OSM had power accumulation as their intention, they would have not supported a proposal that states that members of the Board will be elected by members representing all three teams. There is no scenario where the current board is choosing to gain power. (Don’t confuse the current self-elected board with the board we will have after an open election by the membership, meaning “us.” If we vote in some power mongers, that is not the fault of the structure, only of the voters.
The point of this long aside is to ask fellow community members to quit making accusations about motives and conflicts of interest of the people working so hard to develop a solution. Instead deal with the structure that is being proposed and how we can all improve on the proposal or suggest an alternative, with an eye toward making sure it cannot be abused if (and that’s a big IF) we elected someone that does not support our community values. Our current structure is equally prone to being abused, so let’s set this issue aside for now.
So, we need to do “something” but is this proposal the correct “something?” I appreciate the comments that say no proposal will be perfect, the real question is whether it moves us forward and is it better than what we have by a sufficient enough margin to be worth the cost of implementation.
Having worked as a change agent, I hate big bang rollouts, whether for software or for structural change. Having a big visionary picture of what we might find at the end of the road is important. It helps us all have confidence that the journey will be worth it and that the leadership putting forward the vision are aiming for the same goals that we all want to aim for. The current proposal’s list of objectives are ones we all seem to agree with. So, it has accomplished that purpose. It has painted a somewhat detailed plan of how our structure will eventually look and operate and for the most part, that too is good.
There are a couple areas in that big picture that all of my experience tells me will cause major failure of the project. We had a round of trying to have the vision adjusted in that one regard and the proposal leadership chose to reject the suggestions. So the question put back to me is
a) Can we adopt the proposal with these predictable issues included in it, and count on the fact that the structure is a work in progress, and that mid-course corrections can be made, or
b) Can we still get the leadership to break the decisions apart so they are not bundled and allow the specific problem areas to have their own focused discussion and vote, or
c) Is the only option to encourage the LT members to vote down the proposal, even though it risks complete loss of momentum and discouragement in the Structure Team.
I think keeping the proposal as one monolithic “silver bullet” bundle is a recipe for failure because there are specific issues that many people are pointing out, AND I think they are all solvable if addressed in a focused manner and voted on one-by-one.
So here is my suggestion. Following in line with Andrew’s counsel to find simple solutions, I suggest the proposal be broken apart. At its heart is a Minimum Viable Proposal (MVP) that contains the core change the structure team wants to see implemented along with any structure-related features that there is little dispute over.
Peeling off layers of the onion, take out all of the features that have nothing to do with our actual structure. That’s not to say they are not important or shouldn’t be on the agenda. Quite the contrary, they might be placed first on the agenda or they can be tabled because they are lower in priority. But, separate them out to reduce distraction when discussing the MVP.
REMOVE THE DISTRACTIONS —
REMOVE THE STRUCTURE-AGNOSTIC RECOMMENDATIONS
AND PLACE THEM INTO SEPARATE PROPOSALS
Ombudsman — As has already been acknowledged, the concepts of Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest and Ombudsman are procedural, and NOT structural. Resolving interpersonal conflict and improving harmony and teamwork in our community is important to the health of our culture and growth of our community. This is a good thing to do, and applies equally in any structure. So, sever it from this proposal as irrelevant and off-topic with regard to structure and let it be implemented on its own schedule and it can work out its own details. This is not to minimize the concern. Quite the contrary, leadership may want to prioritize implementation of these concepts well ahead of structure changes.
Working Group Operating Procedures — The Volunteer Portal is a huge step forward, and procedures for recruiting and reporting to the community are important and improving, but they are largely procedural and not structural. They apply equally to our current working groups and the proposed ones so they can be implemented now or a year from now. Good thing to work on, but not a structural change to include in the MVP.
Advisory Board — whether village elders or outside advisors — great idea but again, it does not affect internal relationships and procedures. It can be implemented now or a year from now, regardless of our structure, so it is off-topic to this discussion and should not be shoehorned into this proposal. This isn’t the U.S. congress where we want to be sliding unrelated projects inside an 8,000 page piece of legislation. I appreciate how the Structure Team tried to paint a rather complete and lofty picture of their long term vision, but when it comes to the actual proposal, let’s allow each initiative to have its own turn on the table, avoiding dealing with a complicated mashup.
Don’t get me wrong, I think these are very worthwhile initiatives, but they are confusing the issues and causing distraction in the conversation about structure.
REMOVE THE OPTIONAL AND DISPUTED FEATURES AND
MOVE THE CONTROVERSIAL STRUCTURE RECOMMENDATIONS INTO A SEPARATE PROPOSAL AS AN AMENDMENT FOR INDEPENDENT VOTE
Local Communities Department — I am one of the people that spoke up right after JAB14 saying that we should formally elevate our attention to globalization and localization instead of leaving it solely in the domain of the PLT to the extent it affected code translation and the JUG and Events teams to the extent it represented global outreach. Our country-level communities are an important part of our DNA and success. That said, a juxtaposition of formal hierarchy and voting power has warped the concept to be far different than what I had in mind. This is a discussion that deserves its own thread, and more time, and will be much more relevant if held AFTER the rest of the structure was worked out so there are fewer variables to wrestle with. So, in my mind, whether this is a full voting department, a managerial department, top layer, or one layer down does not make or break the general concepts we are discussing for structure. So, again, I would this as a TBD item requiring a subsequent discussion and vote. Until we have a context that this department is trying to find a home in, we can expend a lot of energy, cause a lot of confusion, and not have made any progress on the core governance issues. I also think this will have its implementation challenges that might be better off running on its own schedule and prioritization. So, as much as I feel it’s important and part of our long term solution, implemented in a way that doesn’t marginalize anyone as Brian rightly points out, this too should be severed from the proposal and made into an independent item for consideration. Approach it as a post-approval addendum or amendment. There are many many issues worthy of discussion as JM and Marijke have pointed out.
I believe separating this out is feasible as the impact is only the number of departments –either 6 or 7. Make the MVP about adopting “six or more” departments, and after it passes get into whether 6 or 7 is better. The other impact is the number of votes in the management team and concern over having n even number of voters. Again that is a detail that can be solved such as making the President non-voting unless there is a tie vote or adding other members to make an odd number.
Now that a lot of the noise is removed, and we have accepted that some of the details described in the proposal have to do with painting a more complete vision and are not what the specifics that are being voted on at this time, now sequence out the changes just like a software roadmap.