On Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 12:04 PM, Pine W <wiki.p...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I'm generally supportive of this legal action, but I am troubled by this
> statement:
> "I trust our legal team to make decisions about what legal actions to
> participate in."
> In general I think highly of Michelle, but this statement fits a
> long-running pattern I percieve in WMF governance of the board being
> deferential to the ED and staff. This goes back to Sue's tenure and
> possibly longer. I feel that the Board should respectfully ask tough
> questions about staff recommendations. Had the board done so, we might all
> have been saved from the MediaViewer, VisualEditor, and other product
> dramas because the Board would have been vigilant about project selection
> and quality control. WMF needs an activist board. All of the guidance that
> I read about boards in general says that good boards do due diligance, and
> I would encourage the WMF board to be proactive and ask tough questions.
> This can be done while maintaining a positive and respectful atmosphere.
> Thank you,
> Pine
I think I would disagree Pine. Our board will always have a bit of an odd
place because of our movement (this is not a bad thing) and will therefore
be more hands on, however, a good board needs to be about oversight and
strategic direction. They are NOT, very explicitly NOT about day to day
management and they can not be because if they are they are unable to focus
on the strategic direction part that is their primary responsibility. This
includes the fact that while they should be consulted and notified about
major decisions and actions (just like they were here, and if they had said
that this was a bad mood I imagine that the staff would have reconsidered
:) ). They should not be having votes or making resolutions about staff
decisions like that, that is not the boards role. It is also not their role
to challenge the staff in public, so therefore the fact that you see them
saying they trust the staff to do X or Y does not actually mean that they
are not challenging them behind the scenes and giving them a hard
time/making them adjust things.

Also, the only individual employee in the entire organization they oversee
is the CEO/ED and it is through him or her that they do their work. If they
think the organization is going in the wrong direction and needs correction
then they should certainly take action (since they are ultimately
responsible) but they work with the ED or they get rid of them if the ED
isn't working with them.  This is an important separation between the staff
and the board and further encourages their distinct roles.

Now this IS a bit different for very small organizations (including many of
our chapters for example) but the foundation has been large enough to need
the separation for quite some time now (this isn't a "new" thing because of
our recent growth, I would say that WMDE and probably a couple of the other
chapters are also at this level). I DO think we have an activist board,
that's a good thing (not a bad thing) but I'm not sure you'd generally SEE
when they decide to be activists and that is ALSO a good thing, not a bad
thing. The board and staff disagreeing publicly and trying to hash out
their differences causes enormous rifts within the organization and the
community that are even harder to heal then the current ones between the
foundation and the community (which we most definitely need to heal).

James Alexander
Community Advocacy
Wikimedia Foundation
(415) 839-6885 x6716 @jamesofur
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