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Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Transition Team/2016/March 2016 - Leadership Team transition planning/nan

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On Thursday, March 3rd, the Board of Trustees entrusted the WMF interim leadership plan to the WMF leadership team. Over the following week, the leadership team worked together to develop a proposal for the Board. They originally used OfficeWiki to keep staff up to date on that process, as part of increasing communication and transparency, and have now shared their notes on Meta-Wiki.

As part of building a proposal, they reviewed many different things. These included the organization's immediate and mid-term needs, the goals we have for the transition period, possible profiles for permanent ED, possible structures for interim governance, and a lot more. These conversations were informed by their own experiences, their conversations with the community, and their hopes for the future of the organization.

The first meeting on the transition plan was March 4th, with more scheduled the week of March 7th.

The leadership team currently has the following members: Maggie Dennis (Community Engagement), Katherine Maher (Communications), Jaime Villagomez (Finance), Lisa Seitz Gruwell (Advancement), Geoff Brigham (Legal), Wes Moran (Product/Technology), and Joady Lohr (HR).

Friday, March 4


  • Check-in: How do people feel?
  • Review guidelines for good discussions
  • Set the agenda
    • What are we trying to accomplish today?
    • What proposed topics should we discuss?
  • Next steps
  • Action items

Proposed topic(s) for the day

  • Our goals and needs during the transition period
  • What do we want to accomplish in 3-6 months?

Goals and needs for the transition period

  1. Get the organization into a stable, high-functioning place
    • Improve stability, clarity, and shared governance
    • Improve communication and transparency, reduce information asymmetry
    • Refocus energy and impact in a positive way, on our mission and work
  2. Address and improve morale
    • Rebuild trust
    • Create regular venues for staff engagement and team building
    • Restore a sense of calm and confidence, eliminate culture of fear
    • Treat people fairly and respectfully
    • Facilitate a positive workplace where people feel effective
    • Empower leaders across the organization
    • Should we hold another engagement survey in 3-4 months?
      • Improved results would be a good indicator of progress
  3. 'Keep the ship on course'
    • Fulfill fiduciary and legal requirements
    • Keep the projects up and running!
    • Leverage expertise that each of the teams have
  4. Build and strengthen the executive team
    • Deepen C-team relationships across the organization
    • Find ways of regularly listening and engaging with staff; get feedback and hear concerns
    • Focus on executive functions, empower and delegate to other leaders in the organization
    • Engage on core management, leadership, issues for departments
    • Find regular opportunities for checking in
  5. (Re)Build trust with community
    • Rebuild trust through sincerity and intent
    • Remove barriers to direct, regular, and informal communications with community
    • Get the executive team talking more with the community/community members
    • Reflect on transparency and push ourselves to improve
    • Demonstrate through doing that we’re a high functioning organization
    • ‘No more decisions made only on New Montgomery’
    • Regularly check in on our progress
  6. Strengthen standing with our supporters and donors
    • Rebuilding trust with communities is the path to rebuilding trust with donors
    • Avoid lengthy process for identifying a new ED
    • Minimize uncertainty
  7. Fill key positions
    • Prioritize open positions (e.g., Interim ED, CTO, Chief Community Engagement Officer, VP HR)
    • Ensure relevant teams are in good shape and ready to go
  8. Get things ready for the new ED
    • Finalize the Annual Plan
    • Fill major gaps in leadership with great talent (e.g., CTO)
    • Deliver a well-running organization with fair processes in place
    • Address major trust and morale issues
    • Strengthen essential processes
    • Improve culture, communication, and tone
    • Respond to/make progress on issues in the engagement survey
    • Continue to empower and develop leaders across the organization

Communications plan

  • Document planning and notes on Office Wiki

Action Items

  • Post notes to Office Wiki

Lé-pài-it, 3-gueh 7-hō

Check in/Agenda

  • Catch up
  • Review goals for the day and topics for the day
  • Guidelines for this discussion
  • Next steps
  • Action items

Proposed topic(s) for the day

  • Discussion on permanent leadership
    • What sort of needs do we have? (discussed last week)
    • What sort of profile should we recruit for?
  • Interim leadership structures
    • Are there other models we want to discuss?
      • e.g., holocracy, governing council, etc.
    • What do people think about non-traditional approaches?
  • The C-team during transition
    • Expectations for each other during this period
    • How do we support each other?
    • How do we support the interim leadership?
  • What are our immediate priorities?

Discussion on long-term leadership

Suggested qualifications

Professional Experience

  • Experienced in leading large, global organizations
  • Ambassadorial and diplomatic; ability to deftly navigate the considerations of our 90+ global affiliates
  • Excellent operational experience; internal operations, as well as with global operations;
    • Pragmatically managing and developing the internal resources of the organization
  • Fundraising experience; ability to lead in major development and donor relations
  • Community management experience; ability to map out a strategy for engaging and growing our global volunteer community
  • Leadership experience; ability to create stable environments, empower people and teams
  • Strategic thinker; clearly defining a process, staying the course making course adjustments as necessary
  • Ideally understands technology, but does not need to be a technical leader on their own

Communication Skills

  • Excellent communicator; across the organization, as well as with the public
  • Magnetic personality; a natural communicator and speaker that can inspire and convey our values/mission
  • Strong presence that can passionately articulate a vision for our work and organization that goes beyond our identity as a website

Team Building/Management Skills

  • Supports his/her direct reports; creating unity, trust
  • Proven track record for building great teams (can properly evaluate people, make good hires)
  • Big picture thinker, not a micromanager
  • Comfortable having power and sharing power

Other possible qualifications

  • MBA (e.g., nonprofit MBA) or relevant professional experience
  • Technical or engineering experience
  • Product or user-centric program development experience

Interim leadership structures

  • We may actually require an ED under current governance
  • ED helps reduce confusion, provide stability and clarity
  • Important liaison with Board but points of contact should remain open
    • e.g., Board Secretary and General Counsel (Geoff) and Board Treasurer (Jaime) to attend all Board meetings
  • Interim ED does not mean we need to manage traditionally
    • People may need to step up, delegate, work outside normal wheelhouse
  • Some would be open to a more non-traditional structure, but will go with overall group direction
  • We should stay goal focused: our needs are communication, human resources, engaging with the Board
  • Consensus: agree to traditional structure, non-"traditional" management

Discussion on interim leadership (outcome confidential pending Board consideration)

  • Discussion on possible candidates
  • Motion on candidates
  • Decision

C-team during transition

  • Reaffirm our commitments to the organization
  • Maintain open lines of communication
  • Identify and address any trust gaps
  • Improve information sharing and listening
  • Rely on and leverage each others skill sets and experiences
  • Align around and provide full support to interim leadership
  • Collective decision-making and socialization, important to build trust and personal connections

Next steps on engagement

  • Schedule sprints on community feedback on strategy
  • Staff breakfast this Friday at 9 AM PST
  • Another engagement survey in 3-4 months time?
  • 2-day retreat in SF (Tues/Wed) at the beginning of April?

What are our immediate priorities?

  1. Supporting the permanent ED search process (e.g., operations, participation);
  2. Filling critical operating vacancies, with an emphasis on strengthening the HR function:
    1. CTO;
    2. VP HR; and the employee relations specialist; and
    3. Head of Community Engagement;
  3. Delivering the 2016-2017 annual plan for review and approval;
  4. Delivering the 2016-2018 WMF strategy for review and approval; and
  5. Implementing a plan to address critical engagement survey results

Next steps for transition planning

  • Interim ED to engage with the Board and help drive the process, search team
  • Meet with Trustees in charge of search process; begin planning timeline, process
  • Continue to engage with staff input on OfficeWiki

Action items

  • 完成 Communicate proposal for interim leadership to Board
  • 完成 Post meeting notes to Office Wiki
  • Schedule sprints on strategy feedback between now and 3/18
  • 完成 Schedule staff breakfast for 9am PST on 3/11
  • Look into C-team retreat (dates, availability)
  • Talent & Culture team to develop plan (with staff) to address improved communications, training and top remaining engagement survey feedback