The ASF is holding it’s annual member’s meeting soon, where we will elect a new 9-member Board of Directors for a one-year term. I’ve been honored with a nomination to run for the board again, as have a number of other excellent Member candidates. While I’m writing my nomination statement – my 2016 director statement and earlier ones are posted – I’ve been thinking about what Apache really needs in a board to manage the growth of our projects and to improve our operations.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past year, and I like to think I have an easy to explain answer to “what Apache needs in a board”.
We need a board to provide two things: Independent Oversight, of both projects and officers; and Strategic Vision and Drive.
Independent oversight is the core value the ASF offers as a community hosting organization. We are a 501C3 public charity, and we rely solely on unpaid volunteers to perform all governance activities. That means that we can ensure our projects are run for the benefit of the public and the world, and not just for individual for-profit companies.
In particular, I am confident that we can maintain this corporate independence, even in the face of project and organizational growth and any potential future needs to hire more staff for operations. Our cultural history and Member ability provide oversight to both project and corporate operations mean the Membership will be able to keep us independent for the next 50 years.
Oversight of Projects: The board provides oversight to our projects. The board does this by reviewing quarterly project reports, and then only providing 1) mentoring when requested, or 2) board requests or directives only if the project is not capable of correcting problems themselves. As has been noted before: the board acts slowly by design: it gives projects a chance to self-correct before taking organizational action (ultimately by changing a PMC, in very rare cases).
Oversight of Operations: The board appoints officers to perform the daily corporate operations needed (infra, publicity, etc.), and then provides oversight to the President or those officers via monthly reports. This is a key point here: we need a board that can delegate operations to the officers, and treat them more like PMCs. That is, we need a board that respects delegation rather than micromanaging. Like PMCs, if the board sees something odd, they should request an update in the next report from the officer. If the officer can’t self-correct (like we give PMCs a chance to do), only then should the board step in, with specific directives to make changes.
Strategic Vision And Drive
Strategic vision and drive: the board needs to think ahead, and plan in broad strokes where we’d like to see the ASF be in 5 years, and how that can best serve the needs of both our project contributors, our users in general, and the volunteers and staff who perform our corporate operations.
We’re incredibly lucky to have director candidates with broad experience, strong viewpoints, and a willingness to volunteer their time for the position. We need a board that can take this experience to think about the big picture, and how the ASF can remain relevant, exciting, and a well-functioning organization for years to come. This includes supporting both our paid staff and our many, many volunteers with an efficient and helpful environment across our operations.
Along with a good board, we need directors who can communicate clearly, professionally, and consistently. The larger world and many community members view Directors as a very specific role, and it’s clear from the feedback over the years that many outsiders (i.e. not regularly active in internal operations and governance at the ASF) see each director as being A Director in their emails.
As we rely on volunteers both for project work and governance, we need directors who can keep their messages clear, consistent, and always remember what audience they are speaking to. That includes both mentoring/overseeing project communities; reviewing officers or operational areas; or in public in general when speaking about the ASF.
We also need at least some Directors willing to serve as public spokespersons for the ASF. In many cases, Sponsors and the press/analysts expect to speak to someone with A Senior Title, like Director or President. While the Apache Way minimizes the importance of titles inside of our communities, the reality in the real world is that titles matter to many other people.