Alex Tischer 2020 Q&A: OTW Communication and Future

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]

In your opinion, what are the most important threats to the OTW, and what are the most urgent threats to the OTW?

In my opinion the biggest threat for the OTW’s ability to function as the organisation it’s intended to be is that we still tend to consolidate too many vital functions into too few roles, which might not sound particularly dramatic but if only one person is able and knows how to do any specific task we’re at all times one inconveniently-timed loss of internet connection away from chaos.
We’ve made progress with that over the last couple of years, but it is something that requires more work.
Of course there are problems the individual projects face as well, but they tend to be more specialised and few of them would affect the OTW as a whole immediately.
The committee I would like to see to be supported most urgently at this time is probably Systems, they are in a much better place than they used to be, but especially for such vital information having redundancies is important.

Internal communications, barriers on sharing knowledge, and lack of transparency are perennial challenges for the OTW. What do you think is the most important step we could take to address these issues during your term on the Board? What specific actions will you commit to as candidates to make the OTW a more transparent organisation with fans? [merged question]

In my last term on the Board, we pushed to achieve more transparency by having twice-yearly budget posts and having an up-to-date meeting agenda available on the wiki as well as the website, detailed Board meeting minutes in both places, and and having always-open internal chat channels where any volunteers could ask us questions at any point. With these foundations in place, I believe we can now work on more detailed steps.
I would like to work with Comms to try to give our monthly Newsletter (internally as well as externally) a makeover to transform it into something more able to combat one of our big problems – various bits of important information being out there somewhere, and people simply not being aware of them.

In your opinion, which of OTW’s long standing issues would be easier to fix, and what steps would you take to address it?

As I said above, I believe one of our bigger issues currently is making people aware of what information is already available somewhere as well as just generally putting out information about the internal workings of the org. While continuing to work on general transparency is a long-term goal of mine, for the short term supporting Comms in improving on our different communication streams and how and where we make information available as well as the quality and breadth of information we put out is one of the more easily addressed issues.

The OTW Board often has to speak with one consistent voice when answering questions and requests from the public, individual volunteers, and various committees. This sometimes means enforcing policies for the good of the OTW that may go against your personal preferences. How would you balance this need for consistency?

Much of what the Board does and says is the end result of multiple rounds of feedback and revisions among the Board, chairs and leads or even the whole organisation, depending on the type of question or decision required.
The Board’s work intentionally entails very little in the way of enforcing policies, especially covering the OTW’s projects. That is up to the committees responsible for that part of the work.
Speaking and acting with consistency in that kind of setup becomes easier – because my input has almost certainly been taken on board and probably been addressed specifically in the discussion. In those situations where I’m still not happy with the end result and am outvoted about it, I’ll accept the collective decision and help it progress further as needed. This is not an uncommon problem, dealing with it has never been an issue neither in my org work, nor in my RL work.

Buy-in from committee chairs is a crucial step to enacting any change in the OTW. How do you plan to convince the chairs of the various committees to support your platform, even if it means changes to how their committees operate?

I think it is very important that the Board does not attempt to micromanage the committees; so any change would by necessity come from conversation and compromise with chairs.
In a functional committee the chairs (and to varying degrees staff and volunteers) will be aware of internal problems and very likely working on them already. Board’s role in those cases should be mainly supportive. If a committee is attempting something new to address the problem and asks the Board for help or support for whatever action they are planning the Board should provide the asked for level of support or help but not decide they know better and completely overhaul the plan. If the committee is not functional, then the Board should look at past cases where committees managed to get back on their feet and help this committee make connections with others that have improved their internal structures, to learn from them and exchange ideas.

What would you like to see prioritized in OTW’s strategic plan while you are on the board? Where would you like to see the OTW in five years? How would you like to set the stage for that over your Board term? When you step away from Board after the conclusion of your term, what would you like your legacy to be? What kind of lasting impression do you want to leave on the OTW? [merged question]

The Strategic Planning committee is currently about halfway through writing our next strategic plan, which I believe will cover the years of 2021 to 2024. While I’m sure they will take any input I might make into consideration, I wouldn’t decide to just start dictating things to them.
As for what I would like to see prioritised in the next SP, I believe that the overarching goal of “increased volunteer engagement, retention and development” could do with more prominence.
As for what I would like my legacy to be, as I said in my platform, I want to do really boring behind-the-scenes stuff to establish functional workflows and help the org run better. It’s a particularly uninteresting legacy, true but I’m a pragmatist at heart and seeing the org carry on and function well is good enough for me.


ETA July 15, 2020: The note at the top of each Q&A post was updated per a recommendation by the OTW Legal Committee.