A few weeks ago, I posted a list of ten people from Red Hat you should be following, and promised there were more people to come. For today’s list, the rule is that they must be on Twitter, and I’ve split them into two groups: The first group is all Red Hat executives and the second group is what I’m going to call Red Hat catalysts– people inside of Red Hat who make things happen because of their ideas and passion.
First, here are five Red Hat executives on Twitter:
1. Jim Whitehurst, CEO
Yes, Jim Whitehurst is on Twitter and has been for almost a year. Sure he’s not saying much yet, but he has a pretty impressive list of followers (almost 400 at last count). Perhaps if a bunch of you go follow him right now, he’ll feel the need to start tweeting more often. Make sure to send him a message saying Chris Grams told you to say he’s not posting enough.
2. Iain Gray, Vice President of Customer Engagement
Iain Gray, who I just wrote about earlier this week here, is starting to become a regular Twitterer, which is a good thing for Red Hat, because he has some of the best ideas in the company. The only bummer about following Iain on Twitter is you lose the killer Scottish accent. Find him here.
3. DeLisa Alexander, Senior Vice President of People & Brand
DeLisa Alexander is the executive who spearheaded the combination of HR and brand communications into one group at Red Hat, a subject I wrote about here. She is just getting started on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean you should go easy on her. Ask her some tough questions, like “how much transparency is too much?” or “do job titles matter?”. Oh yeah, she is also a great boss. I’m such a suck up.
4. Rachel Cassidy, Vice President of Global Professional Services
Rachel Cassidy is one of those smart executives who perfectly balances professional experience, diplomatic savvy, and fun. She also manages some of the smartest and best Red Hat employees, the ones that spend their days in the customers’ worlds making them happy. I’d love to see her sharing more of her ideas and experiences on Twitter. Please tell her I said so.
5. Marco Bill-Peter, Vice President of Global Support
You know, I think I have only met Marco Bill-Peter once or twice in person (he works out of our Westford, MA office), but I still feel like I know him well. He’s just one of those people. Workwise, he’s a Red Hat superstar who is in charge of Red Hat support globally. Which doesn’t mean he will fix your server issue via Twitter, so don’t go there. But you can find his tweets here.
Ok, now on to the Red Hat catalysts:
Over the past month or so, I’ve been having a conversation with Iain Gray, Red Hat Vice President of Customer Engagement, about the ways companies engage with communities. I’ve also written a lot lately about common mistakes folks make in developing corporate community strategies (see my two posts about Tom Sawyer community-building here and here and Chris Brogan’s writeup here).
One idea we bounced around for a while was a mashup of community thinking and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For those of you who slept in with a bad hangover the day you were supposed to learn about Maslow in your intro psych class (damn you, Jagermeister!), here is the Wikipedia summary:
“[Maslow’s hierarchy of needs] is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.”
Now granted, the needs of a company are very different than the needs of a human being. At its very basic level, a company has a “physiological” need to make money. If that need is not being met, little else will matter. But in an ironic twist, this basic need to make money can actually hinder the company’s ability to make money if it is not wrapped in a more self-actualized strategy.
To explain what I mean, think about the last annoying salesperson who called or emailed you. Why were you annoyed? Probably because it was very clear to you that the salesperson was badly hiding his basic motivation to make money. He wasn’t talking to you because he valued you– he was talking to your wallet.
Now think about the best recent sales experience you’ve had. Mostly likely, this salesperson was being motivated by a higher purpose, perhaps something as simple as a desire to make you happy. Sometimes the most effective salespeople aren’t even in sales at all– like a friend who tells you about a new album you should buy, for example. Or sites like Trip Advisor, where you can learn about where to go on vacation from other folks like you.
When it comes to community strategy, most companies have trouble finding motivation beyond the simple need to make money– and the communities they interact with can tell.
Yet if you look at the greatest companies out there, you’ll find that they usually have a strong sense of identity and purpose– just like Maslow’s self-actualized people. Read anything by Jim Collins and you’ll see what I mean.
For a recent presentation, Iain developed a chart that looks a lot like the one below. And to embarrass Iain, let’s call it the Gray hierarchy of community needs.
Top management experts are now acknowledging the importance of creating forums and contexts inside corporations that allow peer review, transparency, and powerful natural hierarchies to flourish. Here’s one great post by Gary Hamel from earlier this year that Iain Gray pointed out today. We’ve had an open forum exactly like this at Red Hat for a very long time. We call it memo-list.
When any new employee comes into Red Hat, memo-list is one of the first great shocks to the system. Memo-list itself is not some technological marvel of a collaboration tool– it is just a simple, old skool mailing list where any Red Hat employee can post an email message that goes out to virtually every employee in the company. That’s 3000+ folks.
Memo-list has been a hot issue inside the walls of Red Hat since before I joined ten years ago. Folks tend to either love it or hate it.
Some people are shocked by the fact that any employee can publicly challenge a post by an executive or even the CEO in an email to memo-list (and they do). Some people are annoyed by the discussions that appear over and over, year after year. Some people view it as idle chitchat and a waste of time.
But some people view it as the backbone of the Red Hat culture. A place where the power of meritocracy is nurtured. Where the employees force transparency, openness, and accountability. Where peer review makes for better ideas (after all, given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow).
I love memo-list, warts and all (I think Gary Hamel would like it too). In my view, it is the single most important thing that differentiates the Red Hat culture from most other corporate cultures.