A while back, Mark Webb of the Met Office Hadley Centre for climate change described in a guest post, how his Cloud model project COSP introduced a governance model, based on one of our templates. This was a result of a few informal chats over beers and his exploration of OSS Watch public resources. Mark also described some of the immediate benefits they experienced.
Well recently I met up with Mark over skittles and beers (this time some excellent Otter Ale on stillage), and he described how the project has become more animated as a result of introducing a meritocratic governance model. Mark explained that having a clear decision-making process is allowing them to move forward as a project. For example they are starting to explore release processes in more detail. So the COSP is clearly maturing through having the governance model in place.
But the observation that I found most telling was that the governance model has actually freed up blockages in the decision-making processes. This is despite initial concerns expressed by some project members that a governance model could be unnecessary bureaucracy. For example, the project lead has been able to point to the model document to clearly state policy when there has been debate or a decision needs to be made.
In particular it appears that lazy consensus has already sped up progress by allowing action to occur when it could previously get bogged down in fruitless discussion. For example, one team member has set up a Google code project. While this is excellent, I would add a cautionary comment that clear discussion about such decisions needs to occur on the public mailing list or there is a risk of introducing decision by fait accompli, rather than lazy consensus.
This ‘unblocking’ reminds me of an analogy I once heard for the benefits of moral/spiritual frameworks that seems to apply well here. If you watch kids playing a game like football, they enjoy it more if there are rules in place and an authority to reference (the ref). Having no ‘governance model’ to define the roles and rules in place can result in frustration and long discussions, rather than getting on with the game. Many kids will quickly self-organise some basic rules and process so they can enjoy the game while quickly resolving debates.
So the take-home here is that if you don’t yet have a governance model in place, it’s time you did. Otherwise you could be holding your project back unnecessarily. You can even use one of our templates to speed up your adoption.