Discussions/WMF Board discussions/Human resources

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Board discussions: Human Resources


The Discussion Room is a space for open and facilitated discussions at Wikimania. Participation of the audience in the session is critical, because there are no speakers, and there is no expert panel!

3 rules are the basis: Focus on YOU. We are interested in discussing and triggering individual action, things people can personally do and change to improve our Wikimedia projects and movement. We trust the discussion can be much more interesting if we do not focus on what others should do ("the others", Wikimedia chapters and Wikimedia Foundation). Be constructive and polite. Disagreements animate discussions and they can allow us to unfold all issues related to a topic. Let's avoid personal attacks, let's consider that we have different backgrounds and let's aim at making everybody comfortable in sharing their legitimate point of view. Be short and on topic. Let's create space for everyone to express his/her opinion.



Starting questions

  • The Wikimedia Foundation has Less than 50 employees / more than 50 / more than 100 / more than 150 / more than 200 / more than 250 / more than 300 / more?
  • [Alice] this isn't a question for the board HR committee
  • [Patricio] important question, until now we didn't really consider that question, we have been growing at a high rate, for the first time this year we are not growing and slowing

- according to strategy, what kind of organization do we need? doesn't have to do with HR commitee, but it is a question for the board

- don't have an answer yet, figure out where to go and strategy stuff [paraphrased]

  • [Katherine] question comes out of "what are we trying to do?" size needs to be reflective of the goals we're trying to achieve / how we resource them. Do this through the strategy process
  • ...
  • ...


  1. Guy - former HR board chair (since yesterday)
  2. Alice - current HR board chair (since today)
  3. Frieda - former board member
  4. Patricio - former board member
  5. Katherine - ED
  6. Shani - facilitator
  7. Michael Snow - former board chair (w/ Sue)
  8. Edward Galvez


  • What does the HR committee do?

- [Alice] tiny relationship with the ED especially

- create goals for the ED, how to manage evaluation of things

- HR committee is first point before going to the rest of the board

- internal HR issues in the WMF are in good hands with the WMF's HR department - their job is not what the board HR commitee is supposed to do

  • [talk about starting question]
  • [Alice] brand new commitee, give us some time. first priority of the board is to support katherine to succeed.
  • HR commitee is a smaller part of that. connection with chair and ED needs to be strong one.
  • HR commitee's goal is to foster this relationship, talk about goals, expectations in *both* directions.
  • Need more clarity so board + ED can act together in the WMF/movement's future.
  • [Katherine]
  • past 3 months, talked with Guy about expectations in the role. Plus steering committee creating the job description. Looking forward to figuring out what the expectations are.
  • [Guy] thought job would be easy, it was super hard
  • [Frieda] time on HR commitee was easy, mostly beaurcratic stuff. Being sincere, not a very interesting commitee.
  • [Alice] scope of commitee is small (Guy: as defined). work depends on how the organization progresses. Board has bylaws, rules, etc. See need to redefine positions/[...] and what HR commitee is doing is good example. People outside of the board don't know what the meaning/tasks of the HR commitee are.
  • [Shani] what you said is applicable to the entire board

- people in the community care. they care about your work as well as you personally.

- tell us more about how it actually gets done.

  • [Alice] I can't really tell you now how we're going to do it. Needs to be a partnership with the ED. Has to be defined - no book of rules that tell me what to do. Need to figure out how that's going to work, I have some ideas, Katherine has some ideas, need to work them out. What I can say is that there needs to be a kind of working agreement and talk about stuff and expectations.

- telephone conferences, video conferences, etc. timezone challenges. Sometimes 1:1 calls for sounding board.

- committee is now 4 people

  • [Patricio] 3 standing committees, meeting schedule and timeline changes depending upon the period of time (e.g. audit commitee has more work to do during Form 990/anual plan). if HR committee meets 3 times a year and things are fine, that's okay. If there's a complex change in leadership, then the HR commitee has a lot of work to do.

- commitees deliver reports during full board meetings

  • [Michael Snow] question/thoughts for commitee. The board's one job is to hire the ED and manage the ED, and through the ED, that's how all the other HR stuff happens.

- There isn't one person who can do everything that we want the ED to do - the commitee needs to work with and evaluate the ED, and support the ED and build them up, and account for the deficits.

- went through difficult period as alluded to. Specific reasons of why Lila was hired. Wasn't necessarily a bad reason when it was done, looking for specific things. Question: How do we make sure ED has those things, and where they don't, how do we give them that support?

  • [Guy]: complex question. 80% of answer is picking the right ED and having confidence in that person and being able to empower them. As a trustee (speaking for myself) I'm hesitant to talk directly / give direction to anyone in the foundation. It's the ED's job and show, I don't want to be seen as interfering. When a trustee says something, it takes on a certain weight. More about empowering that person, and *sometimes* making changes. When things are going well, HR commitee is easy, when they aren't, it's super tought.

- when I was the head of the commitee, my job wasn't to implement things inside the foundation, it was to have them go through the ED... [I think??]

  • [Michael] empowering and having confidence in the ED is crucial. Making sure ED has same feeling that HR commitee has confidence in her, and that ED feels comfortable going to board for things they need to make their jobs easier.

- hard to say, not going to give specific examples.

- work together! be positive [etc.]

  • [Alice] board should not direct the ED. It should be a partnership. Katherine set a good example
  • [Edward] What tools do you have to support the ED? For example, how did you support Lila?
  • [Alice] tbh, I'm not going to talk about specifics. working relationship you create depends on everyone who is sitting at the table.

- special moment for our organization. Need to reconsider traditions, new chair, etc.

  • [Frieda] if the ED needs support, it is up to the entire board to support them
  • [Edward] This is not the only board in the world. The non-profit world is much larger than just the WMF. Good idea to explore what else is out there.
  • [Guy] introduced Kathleen, who was the head of the ED search. she went above and beyond the call of duty.
  • [AnnaS] she rocks.
  • [Kathleen] I work with lots of non-profit boards about stuff. This question about tools seems more related to governance rather than HR
  • [Shani] yeah it was out of scope, but it was still worth mentioning, and the HR commitee can raise it to the whole board.