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One of the principal differences between the IETF and many other standards organizations is that the IETF is very much a bottom-up organization. It is quite rare for the IESG or the IAB to create a working group on their own to work on some problem that is felt to be an important one. Almost all working groups are formed when a small group of interested individuals get together on their own and then propose a working group to an Area Director. This does mean that the IETF cannot create task plans for future work, but at the same time it helps ensure that there is enough enthusiasm and expertise to make the working group a success.
The Area Director works with the people proposing the working group to develop a charter. Working group charters are used to list the specific deliverables of the working group, any liaison activities that might be needed with other groups, and, often most important, the limits on what the working group will explore. The proposed charter is then circulated to the IESG and IAB mailing lists for their comments. If significant issues do not arise within a week the charter is posted to the public IETF list and to a list of liaisons from other standards organizations to see if there is work going on in other forums which the IETF should be aware of. After another week for any additional comments, the IESG can then approve the charter and thereby create the working group.