On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 6:11 PM Nathan <nawrich@gmail.com> wrote:
I had the same reaction! Lots of old memories. 

I wonder, did we ever find out if the Lila-era WMF paid lots of ex-employees in exchange for non-disparagement? 

Reading through the thread, I find it very confusing how hard people worked to make sure information like that never got out. 

I think it’s less interesting how many/how much was spent on non-disparagements[1], and more interesting what a general post-mortem of that period would show.

Some questions asked then are still things that would be useful to ask (at least about the future, it’s been six years so probably not *that* useful to ask them about 2015-2016 anymore): 

(1) What mechanisms was/is the board using to measure ED performance? for example, at the time, the board did not do executive team exit interviews; why not? has that changed? A board shouldn’t micromanage an ED of course, but it also has a responsibility to make sure it has some idea what is going on.

(2) What mechanisms was/is the board using to measure organizational health? For example, in 2015 we did an employee engagement survey only when morale had already plummeted over a cliff; the board never asked for one. Should it have? If not, what should it have been doing instead? (The way it did listen to staff—anonymous backchannels available only to certain staff—was… honestly not ideal. I understand that the HR team now does regular engagement surveys; no idea if those are reported to the board’s Talent and Culture Committee[2]?)

(3) Does the board have any bright line tests for new appointed board members in terms of what positions and past actions are/aren’t acceptable? How is appointment, more generally, handled? (The board genuinely does badly need experienced tech company leadership, because for better or for worse WMF is a tech company. But what lessons could have been learned from the failed(?) appointments during Lila’s tenure? Would any of them have been relevant now?)

(4) What has the board done to address the challenge of the lifetime board seat, and “founder syndrome” more generally? When I posted here about this question a year ago[3], many employees and long-time editors immediately **but privately** thanked me for raising the issue. That is, in my experience, much more telling about the WMF staff experience than anything to do with board elections.

It’s almost certainly too late to do a proper post-mortem - it’s been almost six years! - and it’d certainly be a distraction from Maryana’s new leadership. But perhaps the next generation of community-elected board members could pick up the forward-looking versions of these questions.


[1] Non-disparagement clauses might be interesting to understand within that context, but simply listing who did/didn’t take one, or how much was spent, without the broader context of legitimate exec team turnover, burnout, disempowerment, low pay for employees expected to live in SF, etc., would be unhelpful to the movement and possibly damaging to those individuals. 

[2] membership not updated in 2+ years?
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Board_Talent_%26_Culture_Committee ; minutes not updated in 7+ years?

[3] https://www.mail-archive.com/search?l=wikimedia-l%40lists.wikimedia.org&q=date:20210423&o=newest&f=1