OSAF's Governance Principles
1. We are an agreement-seeking culture.
At OSAF, we have an agreement-seeking culture. That is, we endeavor to make plans and reach decisions based on achieving wide-spread agreement. Agreement-seeking is not the same as consensus, as consensus tries for universal agreement, which is elusive, if not impossible.
Agreement-seeking as a central principle is also different than majority rule. While voting can play a constructive role as an advisory means of expression of preference, binding procedures of any kind can underemphasize and even undermine the critical role of discussion and deliberation in the shaping of plans. Voting on mailing list is consultative, not binding.
For agreements to be meaningful it is important that those with a stake in the outcome be participants in determining the course of action. So, for instance, it's a matter of common sense that those with technical expertise should be intimately involved in technical decision-making.
Further, given that OSAF is focusing on software for non-technical users, it is also important that end-user interests be represented in the process of creating products and services.
2. Leading is a matter of taking responsibility, not imposing one's will.
We believe in making progress through giving clear responsibilities to individuals. Taking responsibility for something can also be called owning an issue or being a driver. It should not be assumed that owners and drivers typically operate by imposing their own decisions. Driving is primarily a matter of attending to a project with a goal, and taking steps to ensure the goal is reached (or, occasionally, redefining or setting aside the effort). Owners typically solicit input and proposals, enable active participation, and facilitate discussion. In some but not all cases the owner will also be an active content contributor to the matter at hand.
The owner has a responsibility to take multiple points of view into account and to try to reach widespread agreement. If there is disagreement, she or he should use methods to shed more light on the issue, e.g., by taking it to a wider group such as a mailing list.
However, it is also the owner's responsibility to see that a decision is made, and he or she has the right in the end to make that call if in his or her judgment that's the right course of action.
In principle, someone not on OSAF staff could earn an owner / driver roles. We will have to work out a process and ground rules for this.
3. Legitimate decisions are made with reference to the the vision, mission, and values of the organization.
All decisions, but particularly ones about which there is disagreement, should not be made arbitrarily but should be in keeping with the vision, mission, and values of the organization. Decisions gain legitimacy when they can be linked to an underlying set of core beliefs widely shared by the participants.
OSAF's original mission is to create and gain wide adoption of innovative open source application software of uncompromising quality. In 2006 it would be appropriate to consider replacing "application software" with something like "software products and services which serve end-users".
OSAF's core values
- personal integrity and accountability
- individual initiative
- responsible risk taking
- openness and transparency
Applying these to mailing list behavior we might say, "Rude and personal comments on mailing lists are disrespectful and not acceptable. Constructive criticism on the other hand is warmly encouraged."
4. Project proposals need to win community buy-in before implementation
A good proposal or project plan not only sets out what is to be done and why, but also how, i.e., it addresses execution issues and seeks buy-in from those who will be implementing it. This is always important, but especially so when the proposer's plan requires significant resources not under his or her direct control, which will typically be the case.
5. Governance principles are more important than ownership
In working through situations of disagreement, it is better to focus on applying governance principles over figuring out who who has ultimate authority, as over-reliance on the latter can short-circuit opportunities to rely on and expand the use of healthy, open processes.