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Open source organisation a key to best business practices: Red Hat

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Aug 23, 2016, 12:02 pm IST
Updated Aug 23, 2016, 12:04 pm IST
A number of organizations have expressed interest in learning from Red Hat.
Harbouring transparent and inclusive leadership through scalable open source management and culture. In pic: Rajesh Rege, MD, Red Hat India.
 Harbouring transparent and inclusive leadership through scalable open source management and culture. In pic: Rajesh Rege, MD, Red Hat India.

Communications today is at the core of everything. Whether you work in the telecomunications, defence, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, BFSI, retail, technology sector or even in the government, your business transactions depend on how effectively – and openly – you communicate with your customers, employees, partners and the entire ecosystem. Even crowdsourcing that adds velocity to the process of innovation, requires that the team behind it is able to express ideas openly. Organizations often wonder - How do we get our teams to engage in passionate debates in order to churn out brilliant ideas, while channelizing them in a structured manner while keeping a focus on organizational goals? How do we make sure that some of the more intensely passionate group members, do not indirectly influence the rest of the members to shy away from participating, which may result in a loss of potentially wonderful ideas that is beneficial to the organization?

So, how can you ensure that the key decision-makers within your organization communicate transparently, seek out diverse perspectives, collaborate more effectively across distributed teams and make better-informed business decisions that yield predictable outcomes?

 

Our notion of an open organization, has not only made us the world’s first $2 billion open source company, it has also ignited conversations in boardrooms about the possibilities that an open organization can hold for the future in leadership. An open organization allows the decision-making process to be more inclusive and transparent, so that team members may feel greater satisfaction of contribution and to have their voice heard. This leads to them having a greater probability of aligning themselves to the final decision.

A number of organizations have expressed interest in learning from Red Hat and have wondered how they can apply the same open source principles within their own organizations, not just in terms of technology, but also have a management that’s more open to achieve a highly-charged culture of innovation.

 

With a vision to openly contribute to the best business practices, we recently released a community version of our Open Decision Framework under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Deeply rooted in transparency, collaboration and meritocracy, this ever-evolving Framework helps us to sustain and scale our open culture, even as the associates’ strength continues to swell. You can apply these to a project plan or a decision-making process, and it is highly likely to either impact your culture or affect associates beyond your immediate team, or both.

 

I share with you the five open source principles that helped us to stay an open organization and sustain Red Hat as a hotbed of innovation:

Open exchange

Open exchange begins with sharing your "source code" with others, be it for developing a software or solving a business problem. Your business environment should allow a free exchange of ideas so that people can learn and use existing information, as well as create new ideas.

Community

Communities bring together individuals with diverse ideas and share workloads to achieve a common purpose. As they say, teamwork divides workload and multiplies success.

 

Participation

Bringing together communities is not enough. You must encourage collaboration without inhibition, so that it encourages creativity. Furthermore, by implementing open standards, you can enable people to participate in the future as well.

Meritocracy

Great ideas can pour in from anywhere. Through meritocracy, you provide the same access to information to everyone and reward the best ideas. Work that yields success becomes the de facto basis of gathering community support and ultimately, rises above other projects.

Release early, release often

 

When you provide an open environment and take out the fear of failure, entrepreneurial risk-taking capacity increases. Through experimentation, people find a new lens to look at the same problems in more innovative ways, and apply that learning to build better solutions. This enables rapid prototyping, ironing out bugs, errors and releasing better solutions in a faster period of time.

For applying these principles in practice, you will need to find a more in-depth understanding of the step-by-step process for various phases, such as ideation, planning and research, designing, developing, testing and launch, which is available online in Red Hat’s Open Decision Framework.

 

But let me throw in a word of caution. Taking action requires the courage and the ability to deploy a new organizational framework with a missionary zeal. The year 1991 was a game changer in the history of technology, when an obscure programmer from Finland started the Linux kernel. But all of early to mid-90’s, organizations held a skeptical view with regards to open source software. A proponent of the idea of sharing software in the open source community was rebuffed and scoffed at – how can software be considered profitable if its source code is freely available for others to view, alter, modify and reuse? Today, it has become indispensable to the likes of Android and others. It has also emerged as a driving force for major businesses, who realize that the quality of an open source offering is likely to be better than its counterpart, as the turnaround time between bug discovery and resolution is comparatively much lesser.

 

Bringing radical shifts in management styles and organizational cultures is equally challenging – so it is imperative that while adapting this framework for your organization, you must clearly define the meaning of the terms, such as meritocracy at each level of proficiency in your organization. You must also define what optimal usage of such traits would look like. Furthermore, make sure that your framework is flexible enough to adapt and evolve based on the several ideas you will generate by becoming a more open organization. Finding the right balance between freedom to express and accountability may be a struggle initially, but having a committed team helping you build your organization is well worth the effort. 

 

Our President and CEO at Red Hat, Jim Whitehurst, believes that classic management theories lack one critical aspect – they “presume people are entirely rational and that hierarchies always function the way they're supposed to” and "abstract away" humanity, “in order to better understand management as the ‘science’ of distributing decision rights, developing control functions, budgeting, capital planning and other detached, disinterested activities.” He describes an Open Organization beautifully, “In the end, the best leaders are like gardeners: They serve to provide the best possible conditions for their plants to grow, but they cannot make them grow themselves.”

 

—by Rajesh Rege, MD, Red Hat India

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