GLEP 4: Gentoo top-level management structure proposal

Author Daniel Robbins <>
Type Informational
Status Replaced
Version 1
Created 2003-06-24
Last modified 2017-11-09
Posting history 2003-06-30
Replaced by 39
GLEP source glep-0004.rst

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 [1] is an 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 strategic 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 strategic and operational management are equally important for a successful project.

Management team

Proposed initial top-level management team is as follows (in no particular order):

  • Seemant Kulleen (seemant)
  • Jay Pfeifer (pfeifer)
  • Joshua Brindle (method)
  • Kurt Lieber (klieber)
  • Nick Jones (carpaski)
  • Pieter Van den Abeele (pvdabeel)
  • Jon Portnoy (avenj)

In addition to Daniel Robbins, serving as Chief Architect.

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 manner.
  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 responsibilities:

  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, or that any efforts that are behind-schedule are reported in a timely manner.
  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: At an appropriate time, 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 Monday.

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 metaprojects

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, then recursing downwards.

        Gentoo Linux
        strategic 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
        strategic manager: pfeifer (lolo?)
        operational manager: pfeifer (lolo?)

        Alternate operating system platform/special-purpose projects
        strategic managers: drobbins, pvdabeel
        operational manager: pvdabeel
                livecd: Gentoo Linux LiveCD technology efforts

        Hardened Gentoo -- efforts related to integrated security
        techologies into Gentoo Linux.
        strategic manager: method
        operational manager: method

        Useful Gentoo scripts and tools (for user or developer use, possibly
        strategic manager: pvdabeel
        operational manager: pvdabeel

        General development management, developer relations
        strategic 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
        strategic 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
        strategic 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.
        strategic 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
        strategic manager: drobbins
        operational manager: carpaski
                package-research: Research into new packaging technologies and capabilities
                managers: carpaski, drobbins, pvdabeel

        strategic 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