ClassicPress governance proposal

I’m writing this post to discuss some much-needed changes to the way the ClassicPress project is governed and managed. These proposed changes have two main goals:

  • Ensure that we are always making regular, publicly visible progress towards developing our roadmap and helping ClassicPress grow and evolve.
  • Align our documented governance structure with the way ClassicPress is actually getting things done today.

Management Committee

The Management Committee has not met since January of this year, and there is at least one significant task that is still outstanding from that meeting (was agreed upon but not fully executed).

So far the stated purpose of the Committee has been to ensure that ClassicPress continues to operate smoothly (loosely described, more formal language is available here).

I am not sure if the Committee has any outstanding business at this time that requires a meeting. If so, we should have that meeting and then ensure that we continue having regular meetings after that. If not, then we should consider dissolving the Committee and having the Directors formally take responsibility for overseeing the strategy and progress of the project and its various Teams.

Dissolving the Committee is my preferred option at this time. Michelle, Wade and myself would stay on as Directors, and the Teams would also stay as currently structured. This change would take effect on January 1, 2021, i.e. the 2020 Committee would serve the full term as elected by the community. After that, the Directors would collaborate with the Team Leads to handle the duties that the Committee was previously tasked with. I think of this as a simplification of our organizational structure that better reflects the reality of how ClassicPress actually gets things done today.

After this change, we would end up in a similar place to a previous suggestion by @zigpress:

with respect to the committee there isn’t (or I can’t easily see) a visible, dare I say charismatic, leader. Every major software project needs a figurehead or personality…

However, I think having the three of us (Wade, Michelle and myself) assume this role together is a much better solution than having a single person make all of the decisions. If you all see this suggestion as viable then I would be happy to write a bit more about the measures we’ve already taken to ensure that we always put the needs and goals of ClassicPress users first.

Team Leads

I’d also like for us to officially set the expectation that all Team Leads should participate in regular update threads on the forums like we have in June, July and September. I think we should be making these threads approximately every 2 months, if not every month as we continue growing and building.

The goal of these threads is again to show regular, publicly-visible progress, for our community as well as for people looking in from the outside. Over time these threads should also serve as a clear, easily-readable archive of what the project has been working on, which has been something we’ve wanted before but haven’t really achieved yet. We will also be able to use this “high-level activity log” to summarize and promote our progress on the blog and other marketing channels.

As part of this change, Team Leads that are not making regular progress in their areas should be personally asked to do so, or to make way for another person to lead the team if that’s not possible.

Feedback

These are pretty important decisions and I don’t want us to make them without feedback from our community. Please reply below and let me know what you think :slight_smile:

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I agree with James - " Dissolving the Committee"

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My feedback: thumbs up to your preferred option.

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I’ll throw a curveball. Since CP is now a non-profit, most non-profits have boards. I believe incorporated non-profits require boards and unincorporated non-profits usually have boards for continuity, ethics, and other practical reasons.

I don’t know if CP is incorporated or not. But it should have a board. Even if the board meets once a year if there are any issues with the members of the executive team the board can step in and deal with it.

For example, there’s a pandemic. In a very unlikely event that all 3 members of the executive team are incapacitated and/or no longer able to perform their duties - who would take over? This is where the board steps in.

A more likely scenario, what if James decides to step down as president, who selects/hires the replacement?

This is why non-profits have boards, and why CP should have one.

So, why not convert the management committee into CP’s first board? The executive team will continue to run CP and the board will serve to help select/appoint executive team members, maybe provide some general strategic advice, etc. Board members tend to focus on getting donors and funds, too.

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I support this. The role of the committee is very muddy, and responsibility seems to have moved over to teams and team leaders.

I also think this is a very good idea. Not sure about other countries, but here the roles of the board are:

  1. Legal and financial accountability
  2. Strategic vision and objectives
  3. Fundraising
  4. Advocacy

If we use the remaining committee members then we have 6. So that raises some questions. Is it better to have an odd number? How long does a board member serve. How are they replaced/selected? Can they be removed?

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As a member of said committee, I give my full backing to this proposal.

I say that after taking into account the performance and contribution of the committee since the start of ClassicPress, not just in 2020. I don’t believe that the committee has ever been particularly effective.

Some very good progress has been made in several areas over the past few months (despite the pandemic) without any involvement of the committee so I actually see its dissolution very much as positive step.

As a Team Lead, I would prefer to do reports every 2 months rather than monthly. It can sometimes be difficult to make any visible progress in a month, especially in the early stages of a project (for example).

But I agree that the Team Leads, working with the three directors, do have a significant responsibility to move ClassicPress forward in all areas.

All in all, I think this proposal makes a whole lot of sense.

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The ClassicPress Project (the unincorporated open source project) is separate from The ClassicPress Initiative (the nonprofit entity). This discussion pertains to the ClassicPress Project.

The organizational structure established for the ClassicPress Project in January 2019 reads as follows:

From the start, The ClassicPress Project was intended to be an organization with distributed power between self-managing teams.

I think we are all in agreement that the Management Committee as a whole has not been successful in fulfilling its purpose. The responsibility has fallen primarily upon the Directors, and the Directors have been maintaining contact with team leads to make sure that the project continues to move forward.

This does not effectively change under the proposal that James has made; it simply removes a layer of bureaucracy that is not currently active or benefitting the Project.

It requires a serious commitment of time, energy, and funds to make this Project work. We are a small organization and need all hands on deck, actively engaged, in order to move this project forward. This is why one of the things James suggested is that

There has been much discussion over these last two years about what “should” be done, but it has always fallen upon the few to carry that out. This proposal simply acknowledges the inefficiency of the current structure and proposes that we formalize what is proving to be a more effective model.

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Thanks for clarifying. Didn’t realize they are different. The board topic for the Initiative probably should be split off.

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I’m in favor of whatever configuration helps move the ClassicPress project forward. Since the project has always been community led, the committee layer may be unnecessary, as long as directors and team leads remain open and accessible.

That said, I think there should be a process for replacing a director who resigns or must step aside for whatever reason.

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It is, and it does :slight_smile:

We usually just say the Directors but this is really the Board of Directors of the nonprofit organization.

Since there are legal and financial responsibilities associated with being a Director of the ClassicPress Initiative we want to be especially careful with making any changes there, and personally I don’t foresee a need to do that in the near future.

Changing around team leads - or even the committee - as part of the ClassicPress project is not nearly as risky.

Because of the above, and because the committee hasn’t met since January :slight_smile:

Adding a Board under the Directors would be something we could consider when ClassicPress is much larger and we find that the workload of administering the project is too much for 3 people, but at this time it’s pretty clear that this extra layer of bureaucracy is a hindrance rather than a help.

Part of our discussion around forming the new US nonprofit organization was that all 3 of us are in this for the long haul. Which leads into this point…

  • Part of the legally defined purpose of The ClassicPress Initiative is to “ensure the ClassicPress community continues to make and execute decisions that serve the needs of ClassicPress users effectively and efficiently”.
  • As I mentioned earlier in this reply, all current directors are here for the long haul.
  • We will continue to use mechanisms such as the petitions site, community votes, discussing decisions before they are made, and in general listening to what ClassicPress users want and need out of the platform.
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Now that the corporate entity has been re-established on the western side of the Atlantic, I think this is the right time to do this. I support this proposal.

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Ah, right. Then, yes, the committee can certainly go IMHO.

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@Committee (members who haven’t already weighed in): I’d like to hear your thoughts on this proposal, please.

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This is definitely more reflective of how things are getting done and it seems to be working. I will support the proposal.

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Still thinking about that.
I generally think the structure should be the simplest possible, so the change is in line with that and I agree, but I do not have the legal knowledge required to have a real opinion on the matter.
Leaving the legal aspect aside this choice makes sense.

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There are two separate entities involved:

  • ClassicPress the open-source project, currently organized into Teams and a Management Committee.
  • The ClassicPress Initiative, the legally incorporated nonprofit organization. This organization mainly exists to manage funds for the ClassicPress project, but they are otherwise separate.

Since the changes proposed here only affect ClassicPress the project, not its “parent” or “guiding” nonprofit organization, this is purely a practical matter with no legal implications.

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Thank you everyone for your feedback. We (the Directors) plan to implement this proposal as described. The Committee will remain in its current status until December 31, 2020. Comments on this thread will remain open until then.

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