[Wikimedia-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] Fwd: Announcement: Wikimedia Foundation restructure (Global Dev & Engineering)

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Fri Dec 7 00:04:49 UTC 2012

Hello folks,

On-passing this FYI --- I hope the formatting doesn't break too much.
If people want to discuss this, maybe the first person could put it on
a wiki page (attached to Narrowing Focus, maybe?) so the discussion is
recorded for other interested parties and can be revisited later,
rather than just being ephemeral.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Sue Gardner" <sgardner at wikimedia.org>
Date: Dec 5, 2012 7:05 PM
Subject: Announcement: Wikimedia Foundation restructure (Global Dev &
To: "Staff All" <wmfall at lists.wikimedia.org>

hey folks,

The purpose of this note is to lay out some changes to the structure
of the Wikimedia Foundation. Some will take place immediately, and
others will play out over the next six months. I’m announcing it in a
single big note rather than bits & pieces because I want everyone to
have the overview: where we’re headed and why. This will be long ---
please bear with me.

First, some context. Why are we restructuring? Basically: if an
organization’s going to function well, it needs to reorg every now and
then. As an organization grows and changes and learns, its
organizational structure gradually gets out-of-date --- it needs to be
refreshed based on our experiences and our ambitions, or else it’ll
eventually stop working. And structure should follow strategy: as
strategy evolves, structure needs to evolve as well. With the
Narrowing Focus emphasis on engineering and grantmaking, we’ve revised
our strategy, and so we need to refresh our structure too.

So what’s the purpose of this restructure? What are the problems it’s
aiming to solve, and what coming changes do we want to be ready for?

The whole purpose of this restructure is to support increased emphasis
on engineering and grantmaking. Some specific issues:
* The FDC is off to a good start: it’s proved it’s able to make tough
choices, and its decisions are being respected by the chapters and the
community. For the FDC to do a really good job for us next year
though, it's going to need to be able to assess the impact of the
funding it’s given out --- not just “is this organization capable of
spending this much money competently” but “to what extent is this
spending helping the movement achieve its goals.” The FDC won't be
able do that without support from us, and so we need and want to
invest in support for programmatic evaluation. At this point the
movement has very little ability to say “x kind of activity is having
a good effect” and “Y kind of activity is not” -- we need to help
equip it to do that.
* Currently more than half the organization’s staffing and spending is
concentrated in engineering. That’s great and it fits with our
strategy, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to have half the
organization reflected at the C-level by a single person. I would like
the C-team to be less admin-heavy and more weighted towards
programmatic activities.
* Currently, as Erik has said in an earlier note, he personally makes
any trade-offs that need to be made in terms of where to focus
engineering/product resources. He believes, and so do I, that we could
get better decision quality if there were more debate at the executive
level about tradeoffs.
* After a couple of years of developing the foundations of the
engineering department, we’re ready now to upwards-prioritize user
experience, analytics, and high-level strategic planning and
assessment. We want to add more resources to those areas.

So, what are we going to do?

First, we’re going to revamp Global Development. Starting now, that
department will be called Grantmaking and Programs. It will be co-led
by Anasuya (grantmaking) and Frank (programs). Anasuya and Frank will
have separate direct reports and budgets, but we’re going to keep it
as a single department because neither sub-department is very large
and because the two are deeply interlinked: we wouldn’t have one
without the other. Anasuya, currently Director of Global Learning and
Grantmaking, will become Senior Director of Grantmaking, and Frank,
currently Global Education Program Director, will become Senior
Director of Programs.

Anasuya will be responsible for running all grantmaking processes (for
both individuals and entities) and for helping movement entities, like
chapters and thematic organizations, to develop and mature. Reporting
to Anasuya will be Asaf Bartov, Jessie Wild, Oona Castro and Siko
Bouterse, as well as a Senior Program Officer for the FDC (a new
position that will be filled within the next month or so).
* The Senior Program Officer will be responsible for facilitating the
FDC process, which recommends funding allocations for the largest and
wealthiest Wikimedia organizations such as Wikimedia Germany and
Wikimedia France.
* Asaf continues to be responsible for the Wikimedia Grants Program,
supporting younger, smaller Wikimedia organizations like Wikimedia
Venezuela and Wikimedia Mexico, and for finding non-Wikimedia
organizations that we can fund to carry out good programmatic
activities in developing countries, particularly where there are no
* Jessie will be responsible for evaluation and learning for all our
grantmaking --- both helping us internally optimize our processes, and
helping us and the grant recipients assess organizations’ development
(for Anasuya) and the impact of the programs funded by movement
dollars (for Frank).
* Oona will continue to run the Brazil program. Consistent with the
Narrowing Focus plan, she is actively seeking a partner to continue
the work in Brazil within a grants structure similar to the one we
recently negotiated with CIS in India.
* Siko is taking over responsibility from Asaf for all funding for
individuals. This will make it possible for us to grow our individual
grant-making, and it will also free up Asaf to do more small
organization development. Siko will also be responsible for
documentation and analysis of all grants except the ones funded by the
FDC. It’s important for us to grow grantmaking to individuals because
individuals create 99% of the value in the projects. They do it with
practically no funding, but in some cases a little money will be able
to make something great happen.

Frank will be responsible for designing and implementing a
collaborative program evaluation process that will help the movement
optimize its programs, including, but not limited to, those funded by
grants. His clients for that will be fund-seeking entities (to help
them make decisions about what programs to run) and the grantmaking
groups (to help them make decisions about what requests to fund). He
will also continue to hold responsibility for the Wikipedia Zero
project and the Global Education program.

Reporting to Frank will be Kul Wadhwa and a new Senior Program Officer
for the Global Education team (a new position that will be filled
within the next few months, and to whom Annie Lin and LiAnna Davis
will report). Frank will likely also begin to build a small team
supporting program evaluation: he is starting now to develop a plan
for that.
* The Global Education Senior Program Officer will be responsible for
running the Global Education Program, which supports Wikipedians and
educational institutions in running programs in which students write
Wikipedia articles as part of their classwork. This program, which
started a couple of years ago, has proven effective at improving
article quality without costing much money. Inside Global Ed, LiAnna
is responsible for communications (creating and improving materials
and tools for teachers, students and volunteers), and Annie is
responsible for expansion to new geographies. LiAnna and Annie’s roles
won’t change.
* Kul continues to be responsible for leading the Wikipedia Zero team
which makes deals with mobile providers giving their users access to
Wikipedia with no charges for data.
* Jessie reports to Anasuya, but will also support Frank in his
program evaluation work. And, Frank’s program evaluation plan may
result in us creating new positions for evaluation work.

That’s Global Development. Now Engineering.

62% of the Wikimedia Foundation’s staff (79 of 127 people) are in
Engineering and given our increasing emphasis on engineering and
grantmaking we can expect that proportion to grow. That’s a pretty big
span of control for a single person, and so as you know over the past
month we’ve been discussing whether to split the department in two:
one focused on Engineering, and the other Product. After talking it
through (a lot), we’ve decided not to do that right now: we think it’s
possible we may be able to achieve our objectives without breaking up
the department.

So what are going to do?

For the moment, we’re going to keep Engineering as a single
department, incorporating Platform (Rob Lanphier), Features (Terry
Chay), Ops (CT Woo), Mobile (Tomasz Finc), Languages (Alolita Sharma)
and Product (Howie Fung). No change there. We want to
upwards-prioritize user experience, analytics, and high-level
strategic planning and assessment. Here’s what will happen next with
regards to that:
* Erik and Howie are going to hire a Director of User Experience. The
position will be posted sometime in the next few weeks, and we hope to
have the person in place around February/March. Once that happens,
Brandon Harris, Heather Walls, Munaf Assaf, Pau Giner and Vibha Bamba
will report to the Director of User Experience.
* We’re going to have a series of meetings to figure out how best to
structure analytics work. These meetings will include (in various
groupings) me, Erik, Rob, Howie and other internal analytics clients
and stakeholders, and research/analytics staff. To date, the people
working in research and analytics have been distributed throughout the
organization on different teams, reporting to different bosses. Right
now, we are leaning towards combining all those people into a single
department so that they can concentrate their energies and give the
organization maximum bang for its buck. That would include: Aaron
Halfaker, Andrew Otto, Dan Andreescu, Dario Taraborelli, David
Schoonover, Diederik Van Liere, Evan Rosen, Erik Zachte and Ryan
Faulkner. At this point, we’re operating on the assumption that we
will post and board a Director of Analytics (or some similar, possibly
more expansive title) position, probably late in the first three
months of 2013.
* Erik, Gayle and I are going to meet to discuss options for what can
come off Erik’s plate to free him up to focus more on product,
strategy, user experience and analytics and evaluation. In January,
we’ll meet with the Engineering directors to make a final decision
about whether to split the department or add more resources to
Engineering in some other fashion.

Geoff and I are also pleased to announce a change in title for Jay
Walsh. Effective immediately, Jay’s title will change from Head of
Communications to Senior Director, Communications, owing to the
expanded duties and scope of the Foundation's communications team.
Since he started, Jay has grown the team from one to four people (Jay,
James Alexander, Matthew Roth and Tilman Bayer), and it now has a
wider range of responsibilities, including creative direction,
editorial/news production, research, and merchandise. And so, we're
pleased to recognize the considerable work of Jay and the team. (This
really isn’t a restructure-related announcement, but I’m putting it in
this note so all the news comes at once :-))

That’s the roadmap for where we’re headed right now. To summarize:
Global Dev’s name is changing to Grantmaking and Programs, and it will
be co-led by Anasuya (Grantmaking) and Programs (Frank). Some people’s
job functions and reporting lines will change. In Engineering, we are
adding two new positions: a Director of User Experience (search will
launch in January), and a Director of Analytics (or some similar
title) (search will launch by March). We will also be discussing in
January whether to break Engineering into two departments, Engineering
and Product & Strategy, or not.

Last thing I want to say: We’ve been talking about this restructure
for a month or so --- it’s used up a fair bit of organizational energy
and caused some noise and anxiety. So I was interested to read the
other day a new blog post by Clay Shirky, in which he said this: “Open
systems are open. For people used to dealing with institutions that go
out of their way to hide their flaws, this makes these systems look
terrible at first. But anyone who has watched a piece of open source
software improve, or remembers the Britannica people throwing tantrums
about Wikipedia, has seen how blistering public criticism makes open
systems better.”

I am not actually asking for your blistering public criticism :-) But
I am asking you to accept that things are going to be a little messy
for a while, and to continue to engage in good faith as we work
through this stuff. This stuff can be raw because of the implications
for people personally: I’m grateful that for the most part people seem
to have been able to set aside their individual self-interest and
think about what’s good for the organization overall --- I’d ask you
to keep trying to do that.

If you’ve got questions about this, you can ask them here on the list,
or at the metrics meeting tomorrow morning, or speak with your boss or


Sue Gardner
Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

415 839 6885 office
415 816 9967 cell

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