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Certainly the IASA/IAD/IAOC reorganisation produced a noticeable
reduction in the IETF Chair workload, but what has changed since
It would be good to have a similar analysis for the IAB chair role.
Below is a copy from a note I mailed to the IAB dd Feb 17, 2011. It wis a
variation on a note that I mailed to the Nomcom in 2009. It may not map exactly
to what you are asking, but I believe it is close enough.
Also, my wish to remove the _must_ in the 'iChiefs must be a member of the
IAOC' best current practice is not a cherry picking act. The IAB has hired
secretarial assistance for the agenda keeping, todo-list maintenance, minutes,
etc. It is pushing forward the 'programs and initiatives' model that allows for
subgroups to do a lot of actual work without the chair driving that (i.e. much
more formal delegation of activities to sub-groups with possibly external
Starting off with a personal note.
As you know the IAB chair is selected by and from the IAB membership on a
yearly basis. I first volunteered for the role of chair in March 2007. When I
volunteered the first time I committed myself for 3 to 5 years (obviously
subject to Nomcom and IAB decision). A minimum of 3 years because anything
shorter is almost not worth the investment in the learning curve and the
personal network that is needed to do the job effectively. Not longer than 5
years because of the fact that(much) longer terms tend to result in strong
identification of a person with the role, sharpness and creativity decline,
and possibly forms of mannerism in dealing with issues.
From my perspective the most ideal scenario was (remember I wrote this in
2009) that I'd be allowed by the Nomcom and the IAB to serve as a chair for
one more year and then be around for another to allow for continuity. In any
case I think that it would be good for the Nomcom to look out for 'chair
The main reason why I want to step down now is that there have been some
developments in the NLnet Labs situation that need my attention as director
of that organization that can not be combined with a 0.7 FTE that I seem to
be putting in at the moment.
As for the responsibilities of the chair.
∙ A number of 'mechanical/managerial' tasks:
∙ Managing and organizing the IAB work-flow both on
architectural and organizational items
∙ Setting priorities, planning activities to be aligned,
identify actionable items and make sure next steps are taken
∙ Set up various meetings, manage agendas
∙ Track minutes creation and publication
∙ A chair's job can be relieved by having an executive director
that complements a chairs talents in organizing these activities.
∙ Drive discussions
∙ defining goals
∙ moderate discussions
∙ call consensus
∙ Identify work items
∙ Incoming appeals
∙ Specific questions to the IAB from external bodies
∙ Track (or make sure they are tracked) various developments
that may have impact on the IETF.
∙ IASA/IAOC and Trust
∙ As ex-officio membership, to represent IAB (and IRTF) matters
Because the chair is involved in all these activities (s)he becomes a
de-facto information hub, besides because the chair often act as spokes
person there isa tendency for all major organizational work items to
gravitate towards the chair, specifically if the interests of the other
members are mostly architectural. There are arguments that the load on the
IAB chair is to high and it causes the job to be more than a half-time
position (depending on personal effectively, delegation skill, organizational
skills and the quality of an executive director[*], it may even be closer to
3 quarters). And I believe that there are some structural questions one can
ask, such as in the ex-officio membership of the IASA/IOAC.
If we manage to get the Programs ran as more or less autonomous motors that
produce recommendations to the IAB it may be that the chairs job becomes
While I think that with the Programs we have put a good structure in place it
will need serious efforts of the next chair and the NEW IAB to make working
with programs part of the common mindset.
I think, and I realize that I am biased, that an IAB chair has some of the
following skills, properties:
∙ Organizational: tracking actions, poking people, planning the work
load. A good Executive Director can be of tremendous help
∙ Moderating and motivating: The ability to herd cats where
occasionally a cat will have its claws out.
∙ Diplomatic: In inter-organizational contacts taking the diplomatic
way to where you would like to end up.
∙ Strategic: Constantly trying to up-level and see bigger picture while
remembering that actionable progress needs to be made.
∙ Open and sharing: Open to information received and conscious about
timely sharing of that information.
Note that I did not list technical/architectural skills in the above.
Obviously an IAB chair needs to understand the technical issues but I do not
believe that the IAB needs to be the 'chief architect'. While having an
inspiring "Architect" leading the IAB would be nice I don't think it is a
requirement. More important is that architectural work is being organized and
the chair allows others to excel in their technical expertise.
I am not saying that I had all the skills and properties above, but not
feeling the need to be "the technical champion" and not feeling the pressure
from my fellow members to act like one helped a great deal.
FWIW I am committed to several IAB projects that do not automagically travel
with the chair (e.g. RSE project and IANA strategy) and I plan to continue to
be involved in those
Folding these requirements with the thoughts on alignment with the day-job of
a chair candidate and the possible willingness of an employer to sponsor more
than half-time of a function that has fairly little technical return might be
[*] as mentioned in my other note, a dedicated (i.e. payed staff) Executive
Director may be a great way to reduce the time efforts needed by an IAB
chair, and other members. I should hurry to say that this is not mend as a
comment on Dow, day-job interference plagues us all.
Olaf M. Kolkman NLnet Labs
I will start to use a new PGP key (ID 0x3B6AAA64) at the beginning
of May 2011.
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