[Wikimedia-l] [Wikitech-l] Fwd: [Tech/Product] Engineering/Product org structure

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Sat Nov 10 18:22:45 UTC 2012

Quim, thanks for writing that. I am happy about the conversations that are
happening about this, and I'm finding people's thoughts and input useful.
There have been (and are being) lots of face-to-face conversations as well
as the ones on the lists and in other venues: it's all good.

There is of course no perfect ideal solution --it's a balancing-act among
multiple considerations-- and there is zero likelihood that we'll come up
with a result that is understandable for everyone, and fits their ideal
version of how the org should work. That's okay: we don't need to be
perfect (and there is no "perfect") --- we just need to be always
evolving-towards-better, as the org grows and changes. I'm glad Erik kicked
this off with a request for input: the input is useful :-)

On Nov 9, 2012 11:05 AM, "Quim Gil" <quimgil at gmail.com> wrote:

> Thank you for the explanations.
> On 11/07/2012 11:47 AM, Terry Chay wrote:
>> It turns out we use a lot of industry
>> terminology, without realizing that we are poorly communicating what
>> that means to most people.
> Actually I'm familiar with industry terminology, and also with the wrong
> assumptions and prejudices it carries many times. I know *you* get it right
> but a basic goal of any reorg is that *everybody* gets it right now and in
> the future.
> While it makes total sense to organize Product Management, Design and
> Analytics under "Product Development", it feels old school and odd to leave
> out the software engineers fully dedicated to product development. It
> enforces the old vision that software development is something that comes
> apart and after the product definition. But being Erik (a software
> developer himself) the proposed VP in that area I don't need to insist in
> this point.
> The current proposal of having software developers working on products
> (Language, Mobile, Platform...) together with Operations (sysadmins, not
> directly involved in product development) feels just as old school and odd.
> The common denominator seems to be "teams that know to code", "the command
> line dudes", etc. I might be mistaken, but it feels as consistent as a VP
> of Presentations overseeing Marketing, Analytics, Design and other teams
> with high communications skills and able to produce great slides.  :)
> And whoever leads the proposed "Engineering" team still would need to deal
> at a high level with two very different agendas: those from teams actually
> developing software features and those from the operations teams, the
> latter probably still complaining that they don't get as much attention at
> the top level.
> So...
> If the goals are "narrowing focus" + "scale the dept, and take seriously
> our identity as a tech org (as stated by Sue)" (Erik says) then why not
> flattening more all this tech structure?
> Something like
> - Product Management.
> - Design.
> - Software development.
> -- Features
> -- MediaWiki.
> -- Language.
> -- Mobile.
> - Operations.
> - Analytics.
> This would mean 5 tech managers (already leading their teams) where now
> you have Erik alone, 4 of them focused on product development + Operations.
> Erik himself could act as EVP overseeing the product development
> activities, since this is the narrowed focus now. He should focus on
> vision, strategy and glue between the tech teams and with the rest of WMF.
> The reporting and leadership of each team would be done by those 5
> managers, now interacting with Sue & "non-tech managers" more often.
> Doesn't this sound like a more flat and scalable org, with a clearer tech
> org identity?
> PS: yes, it's easy for an outsider to shuffle proposals without much
> background and knowledge of the day to day.  :)  But since you asked for
> feedback... I hope it's useful, regardless of what you decide at the end.
> Thank you for listening!
> --
> Quim
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