Re: Layer Violation (on the reorganization process)

John C Klensin <> Thu, 23 September 2004 17:07 UTC

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Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2004 12:41:27 -0400
From: John C Klensin <>
To: "Olaf M. Kolkman" <>,
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Subject: Re: Layer Violation (on the reorganization process)
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I skimmed through your note and found myself nodding in
agreement, then reached one of your conclusions and discovered
that we didn't agree, after all, on one critical point.

Certainly we agree on the ability of the typical member of the
IETF community to contribute actively and usefully to this
discussion.  For some, it is lack of the right skills and
experience, for others, it is a desire to spend what time they
can give to IETF on technical work and hence insufficient time
to try to understand these issues, but the end result is much
the same.  I suggest that has been a problem --actually several
problems-- with this process since the beginning.   One that you
didn't identify, but about which I've had some offline
discussion with a member of the community whom I consider a
thoughtful and significant technical contributor, is that this
whole collection of processes and reforms --from "Problem
Statement" forward on the standards side and with "AdminRest"
and its successors on the administrative support side" have
turned much of the community, and most of the IESG and IAB,
toward a severe case of navel-gazing, during which a great deal
of the focus on productivity and quality has gotten lost.  I
find that very troubling.  While I hope it is only temporary,
several aspects of these two Scenarios, especially of Scenario
C, cause me to wonder if we have a realistic stopping point.

But the problem goes deeper, I think, and that is where your
analysis and conclusions and mine seem to diverge.   You point
out that you, and most members of the community, have little
experience with large-scale management or organizational
structures and therefore are not really able to evaluate these
various suggestions in detail.   But we select our leadership
using a Nomcom mechanism that depends on people just like you
and assumes that they will be able to decide how to fill
positions and evaluate which people are well-suited for them
based on their own skills and experience, presumably with
similar roles.   That has proven adequate, most of the time, for
filling the types of positions with which most of the community
has direct experience, and that includes the types of management
skills required on the IESG to manage working groups and areas,
herd cats, and coordinate and evaluate the standards process and
its work products.  

But I don't see how we get from there to the assumption the "the
leadership" being able to make those same organizational
decisions.  The current IESG and IAB members were selected on
the basis of their technical skills and, where relevant, their
ability to manage the standards-producing work of the IETF.
Perhaps some have the organizational and executive managements
skills and experience that the scenarios posit --and that you
posit when you indicate that you are willing to turn these
decisions over to them.  But, if they do, it is our profound
good luck: I've seen no evidence that they were selected for
those skills.  Avri's note about the Nomcom considering
management skills is, I trust, absolutely correct.  But I assume
those management skills are the ones needed to manage the
standards process.  Those are not, inherently, the same skills
needed to manage a potentially-complex administrative process, a
web of support contracts and contractors, the bidding processes
needed to obtain them a fairly large budget at the detail level,
and so on.   Your logic even leads me to wonder whether the
assumption that they, or the Nomcom, can properly select people
to oversee the administrative process: we all know, at least
from intuition based on observation, how to recognize the skills
and characteristics needed to lead an IETF WG, or perhaps even
an Area, and we presumably know how to recognize architectural
understanding and talent.  But your logic could easily be
extended to argue that the Nomcom is not, with a reasonable
level of certainty, likely to have the skills and experience
needed to select a Board, or administrative steering committee
members, and so on.

And that gives this whole process an air of unreality as well
as, perhaps, creating situations of rather high risk.


--On Thursday, 23 September, 2004 15:50 +0100 "Olaf M. Kolkman"
<> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> This is going to be difficult to explain but I have a feeling
> that the
> current process of getting to a new structure is somewhat of a
> layer
> violation. I think that applying the "standards" process to a
> management
> issue is not that efficient.
> What I am trying to expand below is: I care about the new
> structure,
> but I cannot contribute to the discussion because I just do
> not have
> sufficient background and clue to go beyond giving an
> uninformed
> opinion. I therefore trust the IETF management to listen to
> what is
> said by folk on this list, try to compile the appropriate
> legal and
> organizational advice outside the IETF and make a wise
> decision that
> they will be able to stand by and that allows me to do my work.
> Now for the long version.
> In order to produce good standards we have an open procedure,
> that
> procedure is there to guarantee that we get good standards
> that have a
> wide support and that make the net better.
> To be able to do that work we need an organizational
> infrastructure. Some parts of that infrastructure immediately
> influence
> the effectiveness with which we can do our day-to-day work.
> Examples
> of these are our interactions with the IESG. Other aspects are
> a
> little more distant, the exact organizational structure is one
> of
> these things. The more distant these items get from our day to
> day
> work the less expertise we have.
> Most of us know how to do engineering (that is why we are
> here), some
> of us have some project management experience, a smaller
> subset has
> management experience, and a very small subset has experience
> in
> organizational structures.
> The "reorganization" is distant to most off us. And that we
> can see
> from the discussion on the IETF mailing list. A small set
> individuals
> is involved but the IETF at large does not contribute to the
> discussion.
> The layering violation I see is that we try to apply our
> standards
> process to our management process. And I think it does not
> work, most
> of us just do not care (given the ratio of lurkers/posters).
> The
> contrast between the standard process and this management
> process is
> that our standards process relies on the expertise of the
> collective
> while the collective does not have experience in organizational
> restructuring.
> I feel comfortable with the "management" taking a decision. I
> entrust
> them to do the good thing, and I entrust them to talk to the
> right
> people to make the informed decision. The folk that have
> experience
> with organizational structures should voice their opinions and
> I am
> happy this happens and that alternatives are suggested.
> However, I can
> not, without spending hours and hours, make any informed
> choice on the
> alternatives. And I think this applies to others. I try not
> voice an
> opinion when I have not been able to get an informed opinion.
> Openness is a good thing. But do not expect many more people
> to join
> and lets hope that this will not turn into by micromanagment by
> consensus.
> --Olaf
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