When I hear people in the technology industry talk about the benefits of open source software, one of things they mention often is their belief that open source software “gets better faster” than traditional software (David Wheeler has done a nice job collecting many of the proof points around the benefits of open source software here). While the speed of innovation in open source is in part due to the power of Linus’s Law (“Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow”), I believe it also has a lot to do with the way open source projects are managed.
Many of the characteristics of this open source management style apply well beyond making software, and I’m always looking for examples showcasing this in action. A few weeks ago, I wrote briefly about the story in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink about (now retired) US General Paul Van Riper.
Gladwell tells the story of how, in an enormous military war game called the Millennium Challenge in 2002, Van Riper took command of the Red Team, playing the role of a rogue commander who broke away from the government of his Persian Gulf country and threatened US forces (the Blue Team). Rather than following standard military management protocol, Van Riper managed his team according to a philosophy he called “in command and out of control.” From the book:
By that, I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the field wouldn’t depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward.
A Twitter friend asked me the other day if I had been doing any more thinking about open brands. Turns out I have. Two weeks ago, she and I had a conversation where we discussed how Red Hat had opened up the Fedora brand and the positives (tons!) and negatives (some) of doing so.
This week, on an plane ride up to Boston, I read the book The Open Brand by Kelly Mooney, which another friend had handed to me a while back.
The book is a eulogy for brands that are not willing to open themselves up, and an instruction manual for those that are considering becoming more open.
It was particularly interesting to read as a Red Hat guy, because the book is based on the idea that today’s single most powerful technology is “a mashup of the World Wide Web and the open source movement.”
The book opens with the question… “are you dangerously CLOSED?”
Whew… passed that one. But the book did make me think some about where the Red Hat brands fall on the spectrum of closed to open.
In my last post, I talked about the idea that General Paul Van Riper called being “in command and out of control” as a corporate leadership strategy. But can you also apply the same principle as a marketing strategy?
A traditional marketing campaign usually looks something like this:
1. Build a campaign plan
2. Create campaign messages
3. Execute campaign
4. Track ROI, leads, sales directly driven by campaign
But what might an out of control marketing campaign look like? Continue reading
When we are at our best at Red Hat, we have a leadership culture instead of a management culture.
What’s the difference? My favorite example of understanding the difference is from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink.
The story is about US General Paul Van Riper, who is trying out some military strategies to see how they will work in the field. In the book he says:
“The first thing I told my staff is that we would be in command and out of control.”
Most companies have a culture of management. The people in charge are in command and in control of everything. Managers give the orders, decide the strategy, and the workers follow the orders, implement the strategies. This is the way 90+% of businesses work and have worked for a very long time. It’s a good model for lots of businesses. Keeps things running efficiently, keeps chaos in check.
This model does not work very well in an open source world. Why? A couple of key reasons: Continue reading