The Necessity of Management

Getting people to agree on what a project needs, and to work together to achieve it, requires more than just a genial atmosphere and a lack of obvious dysfunction. It requires someone, or several someones, consciously managing all the people involved. Managing volunteers may not be a technical craft in the same sense as computer programming, but it is a craft in the sense that it can be improved through study and practice.

– Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

5 thoughts on “The Necessity of Management

  1. From an earlier blog post of yours:

    “It is crucial, of course, to never present any individual decision as written in stone. In the comments associated with each assignment of an issue to a specific future release, invite discussion, dissent, and be genuinely willing to be persuaded whenever possible. Never exercise control merely for the sake of exercising control: the more deeply others participate in the release planning process (see the section called “Share Management Tasks as Well as Technical Tasks” in Chapter 8, Managing Volunteers), the easier it will be to persuade them to share your priorities on the issues that really count for you. ”
    – Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

    So, let me conclude: Why should I agree on being managed when that means that someone exercises control over me? Participating deeply is not currently possible at Mozilla, at least not to that extent that allows me to give input. Also, so many decisions have been presented as “written in stone”.

    • Note that I am posting these quotes from Karl to be thought provoking and start discussions; I am not saying I endorse any or all of them.

      Nor, for that matter, am I arguing that everything Mozilla does is in accordance with what Karl suggests. Sometimes, the opposite is true.

  2. You don’t (necessarily) agree with either of those quotes by Fogel? Well that’s certainly noncommittal. Incredible. I think I understand the problem now.

    Tobbimoz just told you participating deeply is not currently possible at Mozilla. There must be something to it, because we never even succeeded in getting a bug patched that deletes users’ hard drives. And we’re constantly reminded to please remember netiquette. Has anyone ever told you that Mozilla has a problem with community relations?

    • If you want my opinion: I agree with them both.

      I don’t agree with Tobbimoz. While there is always much scope for improvement in how our community works (and I’ve been working on that for over a decade; it’s a continuous battle), I don’t agree that participating deeply is not possible. His problem is that he wants Mozilla to support him in whatever he wants to do, whether it’s in line with the Mozilla mission or not, and whether what he does is part of the Mozilla authority structure or not.

  3. Well I’m glad you agree. I don’t about tobbimoz or what he wants, but I do think he has a point. Mozilla employees make virtually all decisions, with possibly a few exceptions. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it very wrong. I understand the impossibility of satisfying everyone, but they do need to carefully consider community opinion, and even to reverse decisions. Some outsiders are prickly and unreasonable. Nevertheless, the only way to get respect is to give it. Right now it’s not going very well. I’m glad to hear that you’re trying to fix that.