Interview: Joomla Transition Team
In 2015, the Joomla structure team selected and implemented a transition team to improve the leadership structure and empower a stronger more unified strategy for the Joomla Project. This transition team originally composed of six members ended up as the responsibility of two people, Ken Crowder and TJ Baker. With the burden now on their shoulders, they carried the baton forward in building a thriving ecosystem with strong processes, community involvement, and a balance of power. I caught up with the two members of the transition team that co-lead the two-year process to ask them several questions about how the journey played out, what they learned, and how it changes the Joomla trajectory. Read below to learn what Ken & TJ had to say about the process.
How would you recap why there was a transition and what Joomla hoped to accomplish by going through it?
Ken : There is not a single reason why we needed to change the leadership structure. If you asked ten people, you would get ten different answers.
The previous leadership structure was comprised of Open Source Matters, the Production Leadership Team, and the Community Leadership team.
This led to people working in silos, which led to communication issues. There was also a slew of “design by committee”, which dramatically slows the process of getting things done. I’m not naive enough to think that the new leadership structure is perfect nor that it will solve all communication issues, but the new structure is designed to streamline the former inefficiencies.
TJ : As Ken mentioned, there was not just one reason why leadership decided to go the route of defining and adopting a new leadership structure. For some time there had been discussions of ‘some kind of change’ needing to happen to help lay a foundation for future leadership. Joomla is no longer a young project, and the desire was to embrace the mature system and continue to grow.
When you actually began the transition, how different was the expectations set versus what really played out?
Ken : First and foremost, it took way longer than anyone expected. I thought we would help for a 3-4 month process. From the time of our “Handover Meeting” on September 30, 2015, to the time we announced the new Board of Directors on March 24, 2017, 18 months passed.
TJ : We expected to go through the process with six team members, and through the extended journey, it ended with myself and Ken.
How did we go from six transition members down to two? How did this affect the process?
Ken : Each of the four people who left the team did so for a different reason. While one person technically left the team before we even got started, the others were around for most of the beginning of the process.
During the lull that was to come waiting for the Bylaws to be legally changed, we essentially did nothing. When the Bylaws changes were finalized and recorded with the State of New York on October 20, 2016, we were able to proceed. TJ and I found ourselves as the only two remaining members equipped to lead. We could have also quit and asked for a new team to be formed, but instead, we opted to push forward and finish.
What were some of the greatest challenges that arose for you during this process? How did you overcome them?
Ken : The Transition Team (when there were five of us) had a game plan and knew what we had to do, but the Bylaws had to be legally changed before we could act on them. Once the Bylaws were legally changed on October 20, 2016, TJ and I were ready to drive this full force. Up until that time, we waited.
TJ : Patience and great collaboration went a long way to helping see this through. There were many in the current leadership who were also very helpful.
How did you personally grow as a leader through this process?
Ken : I remember at the first meeting stating that while I’m happy to be on the team and put in a lot of work, I did not want to lead it. As time went on and there were only two members left, this was no longer possible. TJ and I both decided we would co-lead the process and we did. We worked very well together juggling the workload and responsibilities. TJ was great to work with.
TJ : I gained some new grey hairs through the process, but that could be attributed to my age and the amount of time this took ?Ken was a great partner to work alongside. Leadership is not so difficult when there’s only two, but I will give Ken kudos for picking up slack when I was busy leading the Joomla World Conference, a time at which we were getting busy with finalizing the transition.
What were some of the distractions that came up during the transition process?
Ken : All organizations have drama. Joomla is no exception. TJ and I did a good job ignoring that drama. We didn’t want claims that we were picking winners and losers to arise. Most people in the community trusted us with this task knowing we would stick to the rules.
Not many people know, but we had a contingency plan in case someone contested the validity of the election results. We both tried to think of people in the community that everyone would trust to do the right thing, and there was one name that was on both of our lists. Early on during the election process, I reached out to Steve Burge of OSTraining to ask him if he was willing to “Audit’ the election results if anyone contested them. He agreed, but thankfully no one challenged the reported results.
What were the most fulfilling and exciting accomplishments/wins in the process? Why?
Ken: Aside from the excitement of it being over, it was fun to watch the votes as they came in. No one else besides TJ and I were able to see the election results as they happened or even now.
TJ : Seeing it through to the end was a great feeling. I’m hopeful that the new structure might help us accomplish great things as a community.
For those who may help in a future transition, what would you advise them about in how they conduct the transition next time (lessons learned)?
Ken : If you need legal documents changed to do the work at hand, make sure someone is assigned to seeing/pushing that through. If we pushed that responsibility harder, we likely could have shaved months off of this process.
TJ : For any who might agree to take on such a role, I recommend the only thing you assume is that assuming anything is a bad idea.
Looking to the future, on behalf of Joomla and its community, what has this transition accomplished? Why should users and the community care?
Ken : We are in a much better position to make better decisions more quickly than we have been in the past. I also feel like we are in a better place for leaders to delegate. Millions of people rely on this software for their website and even their source of income. Leadership changes affect these people as well as those working within the project.
TJ : The new structure will bring more opportunities for people to provide input into decision making, and allow more people to feel empowered to become leaders.
With the unexpected responsibility of leading the Joomla transition team, Ken & TJ have done a terrific job in helping to elevate Joomla and the community in its journey forward. Persevering through legal restrictions, community drama, and following the roadmap set out, they’ve laid a foundation for the next decade.
We’re grateful for their willingness to step up and finish the task they were assigned even when it went far beyond what was expected.
We hope this interview has provided a deeper insight into the process and inspired you to jump on board and be a part of the upgraded Joomla community.