The mess and success of building open leadership (notes from Kubernetes Leadership Summit)

TL;DR: Working on building open governance that is both inclusive and able to make hard decisions.

building-joy-planning-plansThree weeks ago, Kubernetes leaders met for a very busy day to reflect and plan how the community was being growing.  I was humbled to be part of the Kubernetes Leadership Summit due to my work as the Cluster Ops SIG co-chair.    Please join us every other Thursday at 1 PT to share stories about running or planning to run Kubernetes.

This event had to thread a delicate balance for an open project:  we needed to limit attendance to focus discussions while ensuring that the community was represented.  Our notes (captured in Google Docs) are being transcribed to markdown here.

Here are some key topics that shaped the day from my perspective:

  • A consensus that core needed to focus on paying down debt and getting smaller.  The core project is seen as a bottleneck to growth.  The comes from number of people trying to interact in the repo and from having too much technical debt,  As a group, we agreed that paying this debt was very important; however, we did not define or authorize specific action to address it.  I felt that just acknowledging this focus by a show of hands was a positive action.
  • Moving forward on formation of a Steering Committee.  The bootstrapping committee reviewed their Steering Committee proposal.  The concepts here are to design a governing body that intentionally delegates their authority.  I think it’s an interesting approach that will help to empower more people in the project.  This design is different than a corporate board that’s focused on supervision.  Here’s the draft document we reviewed as input into the next phase proposal.
  • Continue using SIGs to divide work.  A consequence of the governance design is that we are (ab)using special interest groups (SIG) to organize the coding and feature work for Kubernetes.  They also carry the load for releases, product management and operations.  The push from the meeting was to have all SIGs with specific deliverables.  I think that works well for some SIGs, but more user/operator focused groups (like Cluster Ops) will feel that it’s harder to find the right engagement models.

Overall, the event was very positive with lively group discussions.  This group is focused on building Kubernetes, so there was very little vendor, marketing, user or operator focus.  As the project grows, I believe these other focus areas will be important to manage.  Likely, those concerns cannot be addressed until the Steering Committee is formed.

RackN is committed to helping make Kubernetes operable and improve the operator experience.  I’m interested in hearing about your remote or local impressions of this event.  What items should have gotten more discussion?  What is the project missing?

Voting time for OpenStack! Your help needed to push Bylaws & DefCore forward.

1/17 Update: We did it!  We reached quorum and approved all the changes!  Also, I am honored to have been re-elected to the Board.  Thank you for the support!

What does OpenStack mean to you?

Vote Now!To me, it’s more than infrastructure software: it’s a community of people and companies working together in revolutionary way.  To make that work, we need people who invest time to bring together diverse interests and perspectives.

I have worked hard to provide neutral and inclusive view points on the OpenStack board.  The critical initiatives I focused on [DefCore, Gold Membership, Product Managers] need focused leadership to progress.  I have proven my commitment to those efforts and would be honored to be re-elected [see my platforms for 2012, 2013 & 2014].

But more important than voting for me, is that we reach a 25% quorum!

Why?  Because there are critical changes to the OpenStack bylaws on the ballot.

What type of changes?  Basically, the changes allow OpenStack governance to keep up with the pace of our evolution.    These are pragmatic changes that have been thoroughly discussed in the community.  They enable OpenStack to:

  • set a smarter quorum – past elections only achieved half the required turn out to changes the bylaws
  • enable the DefCore process – current core is defined as simply using code in select projects.
  • improve governance of required committees
  • tweak release language to match current practice,

To hit 25%, we need everyone, not just the typical evangelists to encourage voting.  We need you to help spread the word and get others to do the same.

I’m counting on you, please help. 

OpenStack Board Voting Starts! Three thoughts about the board and election

1/18 Note: I was re-elected! Thanks everyone for your support.

OpenStack Foundation members, I have three requests for you:

  1. vote (ballots went out by email already and expire on Friday)
  2. vote for me (details below)
  3. pick the board you want, not just the candidates.

And, of course, vote according to our code of conduct: “Members should not attempt to manipulate election results. Open debate is welcome, but vote trading, ballot stuffing and other forms of abuse are not acceptable.”

To vote, you must have been a member for 6 months. Going Mad Panda? Join right now so you can vote next time!

Even if you’re not a voter, you may find my comments useful in understanding OpenStack. Remember, these positions are my own: they do not reflect those of my employer (Dell).

Vote because it’s the strongest voice the community has about OpenStack governance

I’d strongly encourage you to commit code, come to the summit and participate in the lists and chats; however, voting is more. It shows measurable impact. It shows the vitality of the community.

OpenStack is exciting to me because it’s community driven.

I have been a strong and early leader in the community:

Vote for me because of my OpenStack Operations focus

My team at Dell has been laser focused on making OpenStack operable for over 2 years. My team acts like a lean start-up inside of Dell to get products out to market early.

We’ve worked with early operators and ground-breaking ecosystem partners (plus). We’ve helped many people get OpenStack running for real workloads. Consequently, I am highly accessible and accountable to a large number of users, operators and ecosystem vendors. Few other people in the OpenStack community have my breadth of exposure to real OpenStack deployments. My team and I have been dedicated, active participants in OpenStack long before Dell’s grand OpenStack strategy coalesced.

More importantly, I am committed to open source and open operations. The Apache 2 open source Crowbar project established the baseline (and served as the foundation) for other OpenStack deployment efforts. We don’t just talk about open source, we do open source: our team works in the open (my git account).

Vote for a board because diversity of views is important

OpenStack voting allows you to throw up to 8 votes to a single candidate. While you can put all your eggs into a single basket, I recommend considering a broader slate in voting.

We have an impressive and dedicated list of candidates who will do work for the community. I ask that you consider the board as a team. If you want operators, users, diversity, change, less corporate influence or any flavor of the above then think not just about the individual.

Why should I be part of your slate? I am not a blind cheerleader. I have voiced and driven community-focused positions about the board (dev cycle, grizzly >;; folsom, consensus).

One of my core activities has been to work on addressing community concerns about affinity voting. Gold and Platinum members have little incentive to address this issue. While I’d like to see faster action, it requires changing the by-laws. Any by-law changes need to be made carefully and they also require a vote of the electorate. If you want positive change, you need board members, like me, who are persistent and knowledgeable in board dynamics.

What have I done on the Board? Quite a bit…

It would be easy to get lost in a board of 24 members, but I have not. Armed with my previous board experience, I have been a vocal advocate for the community in board meetings without creating disruption or pulling us off topic.

Why re-elect me? For community & continuity

I am a strong and active board member and I work hard to represent all OpenStack constituents: developers, operators, users and ecosystem vendors.

Working on a board is a long-term exercise. Positions and actions I’ve taken today may take months to come to fruition. I would like the opportunity continue that work and see it through.

OSCBM Seeking Community Input for Long Board Meetings and Candlelight Coding Sessions

Happy OpenStack Foundation Launch Day! I’m a little breathless at OpenStack’s sponsored sprint to foundationhood but very proud to be part of the process (you can be too!).   Just looking at the numbers it’s clear that we’re building something important.

While it’s important that OpenStack is innovative, stable and useful cloud infrastructure, it’s equally important the project in collaborative developed.

Collaborative development makes it safe for so many diverse commercial interests to participate.  The Foundation, with a gold and platinum war chest,  is a reflection of the need for the project to remain both openly collaborative and commercially successful for our community.  We must ensure a level technology playing field while we work to ensure members of the community can be commercially successful while contributing.  This balance is one of our core challenges.

As an OpenStack Community Board Member (OSCBM), I want to hear what you think the OpenStack Foundation should be doing for OpenStack!

It is vital that I get input from the OpenStack community!  Unlike 2/3 of the Board, my seat is decided by the community and (re)elected by the community on an annual basis; consequently, it is my responsibility to voice Stackers’ interest, not my employer’s (Dell).

Frankly, the project is still hugely dominated by developers with users/operators only just gaining influence. The Foundation’s primary purpose is to help safe guard its independence. As a board member, my job today is to oversee building  up the critical infrastructure (like having a staff) to perform that mission.

Of course, you also need to know my priorities.

  1. Consensus governance helps ensure minority views get heard while we still act as a unified body.  Consensus includes formalized agendas, rules (aka Robert’s rules) , clarifying motions and simple actions to make it easier for the community to follow.
  2. More community integration in the form of work done in subcomittees that can bring in external voices and integration with technical and user committees.
  3. Make activities more consistent, visible and accessible.  While our actions are open, our practices (and audio bridges)  make it difficult for the community to follow along.  That includes faster turn around on minutes so that board actions are not subject to twitter extrapolation.

The board is still very young and I’m impressed with what we’ve accomplished so far.

OpenStack Board needs Consensus Governance

I am humbled by the community support for my election (I finished first in the results) and have been surprised to realize that one of my unlisted credentials, 5 years as Secretary of our local public Community Development Corporation, could also be an important asset. Dealing with Texas Open Government laws around parliamentary minutia such as open discussions, voting, minutes and agendas turns out to translate directly to open source governance (which affects everyone!).

I believe that the OpenStack Board should operate by Consensus rules.

Boards can choose to operate either by Consensus or Majority. A Consensus board typically passes all resolutions unanimously while a Majority board does not need agreement on decisions (see table below).

On first blush, majority process seems more efficient; unfortunately, split votes are divisive and polarizing. The consequence of split votes is the minority positions will seek longer debate, resort to back room politics and procedural overhead. This type of behavior would be destructive for our community.

A Consensus board, which only happens by implied agreement of the members and leadership, works to ensure that decisions can be supported by all the members. This does not mean that all the members agree with the board positions, hold-hands during meetings, or participate in Polynesian drum circles! It does mean that the board as a whole considers minority positions and their motivation before calling a vote. If there is too much difference in opinion, then the majority may defer voting or minority members may abstain from voting. One common aspect of Consensus boards is that members may appear to argue against their own positions to ensure that minority views have been represented.

While the consensus model takes discipline for our Directors, it also takes patience and cooperation from the community that we serve. Board actions may take longer or be less direct than members of the community desire.

I believe that committing to a Consensus board is essential for OpenStack because our board is large (24 members!), our community is diverse and the financial impacts to members are high. So far, I’m proud that we’ve been following that model and will try to ensure we maintain that tradition.

Post Script Table: Consensus vs. Majority Governance Snapshot

Consensus Majority
Voting Unanimous Split
Process Flexible Strict
Position in Discussions Ambiguous Polarized
Controversy Avoided / Postponed Forced / Decisive Wins
Community Encouraged Divided
Minority Interests Incorporated Excluded
Board Unity High Low