Like the software it develops, Red Hat is run with open source management. CEO Jim Whitehurst explains how in “The Open Organization,” a business management book that describes the open, engaged workforce philosophy behind Red Hat and provides strategies for leaders to implement in their own company in order to be more flexible in meeting customer demands.
Software and metalcasting are vastly different types of businesses, and its difficult to draw parallels for some aspects of the book. Whitehurst can use his company’s internal memo network and web-based forum to foster communication, imput and engagement with his employees; such a system rarely would be in place for an entire metalcasting company, from sales manager to molder. However, the metalcasting CEO can take smaller steps by simply communicating more openly about the context of the company within its niche of the industry.
“When people are given information, they begin to see the big picture as it relates to meeting their targets, earning their bonus, increasing the value of the company’s stock and protecting their jobs,” writes Whitehurst. Red Hat does this by opening up the decision-making process to the employees closest to the area it will impact. The CEO makes the final decision, but the ideas can come from anyone. Good ideas win in this meritocracy.
After each chapter, Whitehurst provides five or six leadership tips, and these are the best parts of the book. They provide clear ways to implement an open-source philosophy into your management style, such as “Before making your next decision, ask yourself whether others will be surprised. If so, think about including them before finalizing it,” which was at the end of the chapter, Making Inclusive Decisions.
Whitehurst also suggests giving teams the room to determine ways to improve the company rather than always providing direction from the top-down. Tell people where progress is needed and give them the freedom to come up with their own ideas to meet the goals, he writes.
While not all principles in “The Open Organization” will fit a metalcasting organization, it provides plenty of ways the CEO can use better communication with employees to more quickly adapt to changes in the operation. It also gives food for thought in how much could be advanced if the whole industry was open source.