My thoughts about the new Joomla! structure proposal

I will borrow the introduction sentence from Roberto; if you are reading this article then you probably know exactly what it's all about. Otherwise I should most likely envy you ;)

Disclaimer: Although I am one of the OSM directors everything I have written below is solely mine and only my personal opinion.

Before explaining to you what I think about this proposal I would like to thank all those people that were involved in its creation. I really appreciate the work and time you put in this. I especially would like to thank those people from the team that are responding in a civilised way to criticisms of this proposal. I can imagine how hard it can be. I have also no doubt that all intentions behind this proposal are genuine and honest.

I have to also admit my personal failure and apologise for it: I should have read this proposal much earlier and stated my concerns much clearer perhaps.

The current Proposal

Why this proposal is flawed in my opinion?

The head of the entire leadership will be the OSM board of directors containing 6 so called department coordinators + 3 Officers.

The first problem here is that for my taste this proposal lacks understanding of how much work such a position requires. It is in my opinion absolutely not possible to manage all this work by 9 volunteers. We are talking here about 50 - 100 teams coordinated (or rather managed) by 6 people (+3 officers). I doubt it would be even possible to manage it by 9 full time employees.

In the proposal there is a place for Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader. Why not for Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator? It would create a team with 15 people.

Secondly, all those directors are being voted into this position by the team leaders which this coordinator is responsible for. It sounds good at the first moment but it is not. Why? Because the coordinator has a direct influence on the team leaders. (S)he can dissolve a team or even not allow a team to be created in the first place. So basically a coordinator can pretty easily staff all teams with people that are not "dangerous" to her/his position.

The Department Coordinator responsible for a Team may decide to dissolve a Team at any time, but the rationale for doing so must be clearly stated in a report to the Development Coordinators

Which means basically that if the department coordinator see his position in danger (s)he can simply get rid of the team or teams. Yes, (s)he will be obliged to justify this decision. But by that time the damage is already done.

But this is not the only one way to get rid of a team leader. The team leader can be removed (my guess would be) by the Department Coordinator if:

  • The Team Leader acted contrary to the Code of Conduct". Seriously? I do not know a single person who didn't already violated this code. Myself included. Who is deciding when a leader violated the CoC? How big does the violation have to be to justify the removal? Is not answering an email reason enough?

  • "A conflict of interest occurs" - who is deciding when this happens? Is working for a company related somehow to Joomla! reason enough? Is a person working for a marketing company allowed to be leader of the marketing team? I don't know. Who is going to decide about it?

At the same time it is almost impossible to remove a coordinator. There is theoretically the possibility to convince 80% of all leaders but practically it would be hard to achieve it. Everyone who has ever participatied in a single team or working group meeting knows how difficult it may be to organise such a meeting.

We are talking about more responsibility and power in the team. Why the hell a Department Coordinator has to approve a need to vacate if he has an assistant? Here is a very clear "obedience relationship".

I may be wrong but in this structure every strategic decision is eventually made by those 9 people. If the Coordinator is a coordinator then her/his responsibility would be to pass every strategic decision to all team leaders and the decision should be made by team leaders not by the coordinator. This would indeed decentralise the leadership.

The "Why"

Before we are going to talk about restructure let's ask why we are doing it

It's not like the leadership works perfectly fine. We have some issues we have to solve. There is no doubt about it. Let me list some, that in my opinion are the most important to solve:

  • Communication - yes, we have some communication problems. It is not the same situation as a few years ago. The current state of the communication between different leadership teams, working groups and people in the project is much better than before. Over time we have found ways to improve it without changing the entire leadership structure. It is still not perfect but not that bad. And, what is much more important, it can be improved within the current structure.

  • OSM, the self governing group - This is one of the biggest problems we have at the moment. The Joomla! community has absolutely no influence on who is being elected to OSM. I think we all agree that this is not a good situation. Can we change this situation without changing the structure completely? Definitely yes.

  • The OSM president is being elected by the OSM board - is this a huge issue? Well it is an issue for sure. The OSM president is representing the project. It would be better if the president would be elected by the entire leadership. On the other hand today the President of OSM is just that, the president of OSM. Although outsiders might perceive that person as the leader of Joomla they are not. Under this new proposal the President of OSM is the leader of Joomla. So we have gone from a unique situation in the open source world of not having a single leader to similarly unique position of having a leader that is neither the creator of the open source project OR an elected leader

  • The treasurer and secretary are being elected by OSM board - is this an issue? I actually don't think so. In my opinion these two officers have the most difficult role on the OSM board. As the OSM board should be mainly responsible for legal and financial stuff these people are probably the best qualified to decide who is going to be the treasurer and secretary.

  • Transparency - This is the problem that bothers me the most. The community should always be informed about what's going on. It would be easy if we could keep our meetings open so everyone can see what we are talking about and how, why, decisions are being taken. Well not every. I am living in the same world as you. Not everything can be transparent. Some discussions and decisions are necessary to be taken behind a closed door. It is however a very small amount.

  • Accountability - yes, this is an issue. We should be held accountable. We need to avoid people holding their position in the team just for the "badge".

I do know that there are some other issues as well but I just listed those that are most important for me.

What's the outcome

Does this proposal solve any of those problems?

Well it at least addresses some of them. But in my opinion the whole solution is creating a huge bureaucratic overhead. For some of these problems there is no proposed solution at all.

During the time the proposal has been discussed some people realised that beside the departments and teams these departments are going to manage, there will be also the need for creating some sub-teams.

That lead me to a funny conclusion: let's create two main departments; a community department and production department. And those departments manage some particular teams like events team, JUG team and some others. Wouldn't it be the same as it is now? No!! Because currently we do not have a group of 9 people on the top of all other teams and groups. And we shouldn't have.

I frankly do not see how having 6 departments is better than having just three as we have currently. We have with three teams sometimes problems to find out which teams should be responsible for some particular area in the project. Imagine what can happen with 6.

But let's say I am wrong and these coordinators are not above all other people in the project and simply should coordinate these teams and departments. Why then should these people be OSM members, the team that actually hold the official legal and financial responsibility for the project? Why we are not going to create a team of coordinators instead that doesn't hold any legal and financial authority?

And yes dear Ronni, you can keep repeating that it is not the case and I and many other have already showed you that this is definitely like this.

The main proposal is full of good intentions and, unfortunately, a hope that it will work. I doubt it would. I may be a pessimist but I see how dangerous the outcome may be. And even if I am wrong and nothing bad will happen, we will have a new Joomla! structure and STILL all the (the same) unsolved issues.

Finally one last remark, there will be eventually a vote sooner or later and 34 people from the entire leadership are going to decide if we want to accept this proposal or not. Hovewer we can be almost sure that at least 9 people would vote for this proposal. Why? Because the entire team that created this proposal consists of leadership members. I doubt anyone who was participating in creation of this proposal is going to vote against it. It seems to me not quite fair (at least), to be honest. 

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