Gentoo Archives: gentoo-dev

From: Daniel Robbins <drobbins@g.o>
To: gentoo-dev@g.o
Subject: [gentoo-dev] *IMPORTANT* top-level management structure!
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 01:33:14
Hi guys,

We are all painfully aware of the chronic communication, coordination and
planning issues that are a direct result of the massive growth of this
project. The primary victim of this growth has been the release of 
Gentoo Linux 1.4, as well as all of our sanity.

Kurt and I have developed a comprehensive plan which we hope to get in place
*this week* to address all of these issues. A draft of the plan is below. It
is long, but *ALL* developers need to read it in its *ENTIRETY* and
understand why we need to move from a unstructured community development
model to a model that incorporates the best possible software development
and management practices. This is the first critical step in making this
happen.  Being better organized is the only way we can effectively grow
while improving the quality of Gentoo. Enough said, please read.

Gentoo top-level management structure proposal, recursive implementation
Authors: Daniel Robbins and Kurt Lieber


This is a draft. But I want to get this finalized and in place by Thursday
if we can. We are simply growing too fast to not get this in place within

(Note: see "manager responsibility #9" to understand the recursive nature
of this proposal.)

What is the purpose of this proposal?

The purpose of this proposal is to solve chronic management, coordination
and communication issues in the Gentoo project. In particular, currently we
have no clearly defined top-level management structure, and no official,
regular meetings to communicate status updates between developers serving
in critical roles. In general, most communication takes place on irc and
irregularly via email. There is also little to no accountability, even
at a high level, to complete projects on time.

Because of this current state of affairs, it is difficult to set goals and
track the status of projects. This lack of communication and coordination
also makes it difficult for top-level developers to manage their own
projects. In addition, we have the other chronic problem of not having
clearly-defined roles and scopes of executive decision-making authority for
top-level developers, which results in many top-level developers doubting
that they even have the authority to manage their own projects and
sub-projects. While this has *never* been the intention of top-level
developers, it is the unfortunate result of an unstructured development
process: no one knows what is going on, and everyone defers to the Chief
Architect for all executive decisions.

Clearly, a plan is needed to swiftly and permanently address these issues by
increasing communication, coordination, and accountability. Roles and scopes
of executive decision-making authority need to be defined for top developers
so that they have a clear mandate as well as accountability to manage their
projects and thus ensure their projects complete their appointed work
efficiently and on-schedule.

How do we fix this?

This proposal suggests fixing this issue by creating an official top-level
management structure. This management structure will consist of the chief
architect and a group of developers that will be given the title of
"Top-level managers." Top-level managers will be accountable for the
projects they manage, and be responsible for communicating the status of
their projects to the rest of the top-level managers and chief architect,
among other things detailed later in this document.

All the top-level projects in the Gentoo project will be clearly defined,
including with goals, sub-projects, members, roadmap and schedules.  The
"Hardened Gentoo" page at is a
excellent example of such a top-level project definition.

Certain executive decision-making authority will be granted to these
projects, as agreed upon by the top-level managers and project members.
Then, a top-level manager or managers will be officially adopt projects.
These managers will be responsible for tracking the status of the project,
ensuring that the project meets targets and is generally managed properly.
Manager responsibilities are described in detail later in this document.

The operational manager of each top-level project will also be responsible
to report the status of the project in regular weekly status meetings in
which all top-level managers will participate. This regular communication
will allow proper coordination, goal-setting and scheduling to take place.

Types of management

For top-level projects, there are currently two possible types of managers.
Each project must have at least one manager of each type, although one
person may serve both roles.  The first type of manager is the operational
manager, who is granted executive authority for the day-to-day running of
the project. Because this person is directly involved in the day-to-day
running of the project, this person has the responsibility to communicate
project status to the rest of the top-level management team.

The other type of manager is the tactical manager. The tactical manager has
executive decision-making authority over the long-term strategic direction
of the project. This manager's involvement in the day-to-day operations of
the project is limited. Both tactical and operational management are equally
important for a successful project.

Management team

Proposed initial top-level managment team is as follows:

Top-level managers (in no particluar order):
	Seemant Kulleen (seemant)
	Jay Pfeifer (pfeifer)
	Joshua Brindle (method)
	Kurt Lieber (klieber)
	Nick Jones (carpaski)
	Pieter Van den Abeele (pvdabeel)
	Jon Portnoy (avenj)

Chief Architect
	Daniel Robbins (drobbins)

Management charter

1) Constructive, professional communication: All communication should be
focused on improving the management of Gentoo projects, should be
constructive in nature and should be shared in a friendly, professional

2) Accountability to peers: Allow fellow members of this list to hold us
accountable to follow-through on projects and meet deadlines. Keep fellow
members accountable.

3) Management of projects: empower managers to have the authority and
strategic direction necessary to properly manage thier projects and efforts
to ensure projects complete their appointed work on time.

4) Results: our expectation is that our efforts, when properly executed,
will result in the Gentoo project's ability to meet deadlines, have much
better communication and coordination throughout the entire project, higher
overall quality and a more positive experience for all.

Manager responsibilities

Every top-level Gentoo project will have a clearly defined scope, and
clearly defined and explicit executive decision-making authority that will
be granted to managers of the project to exercise and/or delegate as they
see fit. Both the scope and any necessary decision-making authority must be
agreed upon by both the chief architect and project members. The scope and
executive authority of a project can be expanded over time as required as
approved by the top level managers.

In addition to decision-making authority, managers have the following

1) Keep a complete list of all projects and efforts you are managing,
and associated project page up-to-date

2) Manage and track the status of these efforts. This includes active
direction as well as passive tracking of progress.

3) Define clear goals, roadmaps and timelines (preliminary if necessary) for
every effort.

4) Proactively identify efforts that have problems and need help.

5) Ensure that your efforts are completed on-time.

6) Remain focused. Make sure that you are not managing more than you can handle.

7) Fulfill formal communication and coordination responsibilities required by
top-level managers (weekly meetings, etc.)

8) Fulfill formal communication and coordination responsibilities required
by individual efforts (project meetings, communication with project members,
etc.) This is *important* -- our management of projects means that we
have the responsibility not only to communicate with our peers but
also those who we are managing. This communication should be frequent,
have a formal component (planned meetings, official status updates,
etc.) and model good management practices to members of our teams.

9) *RECURSIVE FUNCTIONALITY*: When possible, implement these management
practices for *sub*-projects (define managers, clear sub-project goals,
grant executive authority) with you serving as primary authority.

gentoo-managers list

The gentoo-managers list will be created as the official email communications
channel for all top-level Gentoo Linux managers.

The tenative plan for top-level management coordination is as follows:

Monday full status email:

	Every Monday afteroon, every member of this list posts a status summary of
	projects/efforts that they are managing, as well as any items that they
	would like to discuss "live" on IRC in the upcoming "live" meeting.
	If you are unable to attend the "live" IRC meeting, an email to this
	list mentioning your inability to attend should be posted by Monday
	afternoon or before.

	The goal of the Monday afternoon email is to get every other top-level
	manager up to speed on the status of your efforts and any efforts
	managed by you, and to have a tenative meeting agenda in place for the
	"live" IRC meeting.

Monday IRC chat:

	On Monday evening, we convene on irc for a "live" meeting.
	The goal of this meeting isn't to provide status updates on our
	projects, but to work out any outstanding hands-on issues relating to the
	management of Gentoo Linux. These issues can include:

		1) Assignment of unmanaged projects
		2) Resolving critical, time-sensitive problems
		3) Trying to "fix" projects that are having trouble staying on-target
		4) Sharing new ideas about how to coordinate our efforts better
		5) Finding ways to improve our management of projects

	The goal of this live IRC chat is to provide a regular forum to resolve
	tricky issues that benefit from real-time, "live" discussion. Generally,
	this meeting should last no more than one hour if possible. Generally,
	new ideas and practices should be discussed in this live meeting, with
	the list being used for status updates and coordinated resolution of
	critical issues.

	(Note: inability to attend due to time zone can be addressed by posting
	the full IRC log to gentoo-managers and allowing non-attending members
	to post ideas, comments and follow-ups)

Thursday update:

	Every Thursday afternoon, every member of this list posts a "status
	update" email, giving all members a quick, general update on any efforts
	currently underway. This allows for some fairly rapid feedback for any
	efforts that were started the previous Monday, and an opportunity to
	recover from any efforts that have fallen off-target since the previous

	This email need not be exhaustive, but may be if necessary.

	The goal of this update is to allow any problems with our projects to be
	discussed and shared before the weekend, so that an adequate solution or 
	interim solution can be found before the weekend.

top-level projects and *preliminary* top-level managerial assignments below.
Note that *sub-project* managers are generally not listed, but will be
defined in time. We are starting with the top levels first.

		Gentoo Linux
		tactical manager: drobbins, seemant
		operational manager: seemant
		back-up: avenj
			x86-stable: Gentoo Linux x86 stable branch
			x86-unstable: Gentoo Linux x86 unstable branch
		Kernel development
		tactical manager: pfeifer (lolo?)
		operational manager: pfeifer (lolo?)
		Alternate operating system platform/special-purpose projects
		tactical managers: drobbins, pvdabeel
		operational manager: pvdabeel
			livecd: Gentoo Linux LiveCD technology efforts
		Hardened Gentoo -- efforts related to integrated security
		techologies into Gentoo Linux.
		tactical manager: method
		operational manager: method

		Useful Gentoo scripts and tools (for user or developer use, possibly
		tactical manager: pvdabeel
		operational manager: pvdabeel
		General development management, developer relations
		tactical managers: seemant, drobbins
		operational manager: avenj
		back-up: klieber 
			newdev: Recruiting of developers, enforcement of recruitment policy
			devops: Day-to-day oversight of Gentoo development, commits
		Managing and coordinating release process
		tactical manager: drobbins, seemant
		operational manager: avenj
			build: Management of stage/package building efforts on all architectures
			install-doc: install documentation
		Explicit, proactive quality control efforts
		tactical manager: drobbins 
		operational manager: seemant
			bugs: Overseeing bug distribution/assigment/completion and responsiveness
			security: Manage tracking and application of security fixes to packages
			policy-doc: policy documentation

		Public relations efforts, contact with, etc.
		tactical manager: drobbins
		operational manager: klieber
		back-up: seemant 
			partners: Gentoo partnerships, liaison(s) to metapkg, Gentoo Games, Inc.
			shows: Planning and organization for trade shows
			gwn: Gentoo Weekly News
		Portage development, maintenance and new features implementation
		tactical manager: drobbins
		operational manager: carpaski
			package-research: Research into new packaging technologies and capabilities
			managers: carpaski, drobbins, pvdabeel

		tactical manager: klieber
		operational manager: klieber Mirrors, servers, email, hosting, server security
			mirrors: ftp, web and rsync mirrors
			web: Web site design and related technology
			doc: general documentation

Daniel Robbins
Chief Architect, Gentoo Linux