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ICANN's Noah: Chehade's 40-Day Report Card

Jonathan Zuck

Forty days. That's how long Fadi Chehade has had to get a handle on the most complex, diverse and important non-profit corporation the world has ever known. The last guy to face such an unforgiving timeline was measuring timber in cubits.

So if Cheade is Noah, I guess that makes ICANN Chairman Steve Crocker God, telling Fadi to wrangle all these diverse (and often diverging) constituencies and march them two-by-two into the boat, ahead of the coming storm.

In Bill Crosby's famous take on the Noah story, Noah asks god what happens if he gets it wrong. God's response: "How long can you tread water?"

The timing of former ICANN President Rod Beckstrom's departure was, to put it lightly, suboptimal. ICANN is in the midst of administering the biggest single change to the DNS in its history, and is beset on all sides by national and intergovernmental powers that would like to take it over.

Our forty-day storm is well underway, and it's going to be nip-and-tuck to get the slower-moving animals tucked away on this multistakeholder ark of ours.

That's why so many of us in the business community, and elsewhere across ICANN — by the sound of the hallway discussions here — were so pleased to hear something that has been missing from ICANN CEO speeches: details.

Chehade touched only briefly on his grand vision for ICANN, before diving headlong into an hour-long "working session" detailing exactly how things were going to change, and how those changes were going to affect the delivery of ICANN's critical work product.

The proposals he laid out were extremely ambitious: particularly the "matrixing" of ICANN's siloed global operations into a cohesive, operation that is international not just in location, but in perspective as well.

This is critical, because the success or failure of this effort will have a direct impact on how the world perceives ICANN, and by extension, how sovereign governments perceive efforts to impose greater governmental control over the resources that ICANN manages.

Chehade painted a target on his back by telling a roomful of stakeholders with long memories precisely what he intended to do, when he intended to do it, and whose responsibility it would be if it went wrong. But that's precisely what he had to do in order to send a clear message that this ship is getting righted, and no animal is being left behind.

On Monday, Fadi showed us the blueprint for the Ark. He's going to need some help in building it, and I, for one, am ready to throw in my hand, because I don't think we can tread water for much longer.

By Jonathan Zuck, President of Association for Competitive Technology (ACT). More blog posts from Jonathan Zuck can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

"the most complex, diverse and important non-profit Ian Peter  –  Oct 17, 2012 11:56 AM PST

"the most complex, diverse and important non-profit corporation the world has ever known" ?

No.....

"extremely ambitious: particularly the "matrixing" of ..." Jay Daley  –  Oct 21, 2012 12:29 PM PST

You are missing the point of the CEO's speech and plan.  Matrix management, along with the clear linkage between strategic objective and projects/initiatives is a standard management approach and in no way out of the ordinary.  There is nothing ambitious in it at all - it is utterly straightforward to implement.  It is only because ICANN has been without this normal, professional approach for so long that the new CEO needed to lay out in some detail how he was going to achieve the obvious.  That's why he is just getting on and doing it!

The hard part comes next and was the subject of his last slide - addressing the SO/AC silos and entrenched power bases, delivering a successful new gTLD programme, taking multi-stakeholderism into the ITU/UN and progressing the long list of hard policy discussions that seem to be going nowhere.

The new CEO's speech was so good because it presented a clear and rational analysis of the way forward for the *whole* challenge he faces, with the internals of ICANN getting the quick and sharp readjustment they need and the focus then turning outwards to where the real effort will be required.

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