[Linux-aus] Refactoring Linux Australia

Sridhar Dhanapalan sridhar at dhanapalan.com
Sat Dec 10 09:11:02 UTC 2005

On Sat, 10 Dec 2005 10:37, Janet Hawtin <lucychilli at adam.com.au> wrote:
> There is always the risk that the paid folk end up in a tricky situation
> as they often have tenure and the committee doesnt.
> It is possible and seems common in student organisations that the paid
> staff end up engineering the direction of the organisation for goals
> which they deem useful as it is possible for elected committee members
> to have trouble getting a full understanding of the finances and
> secretarial aspect of the org. Especially if it is someone else's job
> to do so. (..end flashback of student era)

Unfortunately, this can be quite common in any organisation with a mixed 
elected/tenured administration. Japan is a perfect example. The bureaucrats 
hold a tremendous degree of power, but unlike in a country such Australia 
they are highly respected for their efforts (*queue random joke about 
Australian civil servants*). Consequently, such roles are highly coveted, and 
attaining them is extraordinarily difficult (civil service exams, etc.).

What this means for LA is the following:

* We need to be _extremely_ selective about whom we choose for such posts.
* We need to accept the fact that 'bureaucrats' will be running the show - at 
least the day-to-day running of the organisation.
* If managed correctly by elected office-holders, this can free them to focus 
on strategy and longer-term policies.
* However, elected office-holders need to know where and where not to 
interfere. We don't need a Hitler[1] on our hands.
* A good way to start with this is to clearly define the roles and 
responsibilities of elected and non-elected members of the administration.
* Elected and non-elected members need to co-operate, not compete.
* A bunch of other stuff that I'm sure I've missed.

Many of these points may seem obvious, but they are very easy to forget or 

[1] Rather than invoking Godwin's Law, my analogy here is quite apt. Hitler 
was notorious for being lazy when it came to matters that truly deserved his 
attention (some accounts describe him regularly waking up in the afternoon), 
and far too interfering in things which he knew nothing about (like military 
strategy). The Allies didn't win WWII, Hitler lost it.

Sridhar Dhanapalan  [Yama | http://www.pclinuxonline.com/]
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more convenient to reboot. By contrast, UNIX administrators are conditioned 
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helped in this by the greater transparency of UNIX and the small number of 
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