[Foundation-l] governance

Alison Wheeler wikimedia at alisonwheeler.com
Wed Apr 11 21:38:37 UTC 2007

The proposal / presentation at
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Anthere/governance certainly and
distinctly shows merit in reviewing the situation we are presently in and
the route taken to this point.

On the main five reasons:
"Board members are dissatisfied with their roles or the way the board
I would suggest that this is not only the Board (those elected and those
appointed) but also the wider Wiki editing nation who take an interest in
the proceedings of the WMF and the longevity of the projects. The majority
of readers (and probably of editors) take as little interest in WMF and
its Board as most people do about the corporate structure of their
preferred supermarket chain. Both provide a service and when that service
is what is expected people are generally happy.

"The organization is experiencing problems that can be traced back to
inadequacies in board structure or process."
To my mind much of this is historical and related to how wikimedia has
rather grown like Topsy; mostly undirected but generally in the right
direction. That worked for the small organisation we once were; it does
not now (and, arguably, has not for some time)

"The organization is entering a new phase in its life-cycle; the CEO has
left or is leaving."
The present Board and, indeed, Jimbo as founder, both probably need to
review how far they want to integrate their own attitudes and behaviour
with that of the WMF. Just as Anthere says "I feel that the daily
operational trivia is taking its toll on me." it can be clearly argued
that the Board is failing to due the task usually undertaken by a Board -
that of setting direction, metrics, standards - and getting too closely
involved in the minutia of carrying out those tasks; blurring the lines
and ending up missing those targets.

"there has been a major turnover of board members" and "there is a crisis
of confidence in the board or the CEO" probably both stem from the lack of
discussion / information in the wider support network of people interested
and involved in the activities of the WMF and the management of the
projects. Staff disappearing or being appointmented in a 'normal' company
without advance information or explanation are part of the landscape, but
for most of us they appear apparently without reason.

On Wed, April 11, 2007 11:49, Florence Devouard wrote:
> If we trusted 100% a CEO to manage a
> company, then there would be no need for a board of trustees.

No serious company anywhere would expect a Board to sit back and ignore
the direction and structure of its primary business and just blindly trust
a CEO. No where, No how. What *is* needed though (imho) is for the Board
to make a decision to trust that CEO (or ED, the name doesn't matter -
only the task does) to do the job they are appointed to and meet the
metrics set for them, and for the Board not to second-guess every action
whilst the members jockey for position on the Board as appears to be
happening at present. The Board should be a Board and not try to be the

One other point from the meta page. Anthere writes "So this side argues
that it is best to pick up someone from the community to avoid having to
toilet-train him (my words), with the drawback being that we know of no
professional interim ED in the community, so would not have necessarily
hired a professional." I would strongly suggest that the second half of
that is entirely in error. There are professional interims in the
community (and yes, to declare an interest I am one and I can happily
point you at the agencies which represent me, and I am certain I am far
from the only one) but, I suspect from past events, the issue is one of
in-fighting amongst the Board (present or past) as to what 'power' they
might or might not have over the appointment of someone they know against
someone they do not.

It is said that there are no easy answers, just difficult questions. The
WMF is here and, for all its perceived faults, could be made to make as
once intended. But that will take an effort from those presently involved
in its management to recognise their own strengths and failings; that the
WMF is in need of a turnround organisationally and needs an experienced
external capability to undertake that task.

Alison Wheeler

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