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The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance Hardcover – May 12, 2015
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CEO Jim Whitehurst's The Open Organization is the best business book of the year.” Seeking Alpha (seekingalpha.com)
ADVANCE PRAISE for The Open Organization:
MICHAEL DELL, Chairman and CEO, Dell
In The Open Organization, Jim Whitehurst clearly demonstrates how building avidly engaged communities of employees, partners, and customers can ignite the kind of passion and innovation that drive outsized results for businesses and for society as a whole. This is a great read for anyone hoping to lead and succeed in a society being redefined by expectations of transparency, authenticity, accessand yes, openness.”
CHRIS ANDERSON, Cofounder and CEO, 3D Robotics; former Editor in Chief, Wired magazine
In a wired world, everyone knows that management needs to change from command and control’ to leadership based on transparency, collaboration, and participation. But the question is, how do you actually lead that way? Jim Whitehurst’s interesting tale of his own reinvention as a leader, with lessons from other leaders in companies such as Whole Foods, Pixar, and Zappos, finally provides the blueprint that leaders have been seeking.”
JEANIE DANIEL DUCK, Former Senior Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group; author, The Change Monster
Many people are wary of change. For executives who worry about Millennial employees and the power of the internet, it is scary indeed. Yet those same employees could offer valuable new perspectives, ideas, and passion. The question is, how do today’s managers capture those desirable attributes without setting off the perfect storm? The answers are in Jim Whitehurst’s book.”
CHARLENE LI, Founder and CEO, Altimeter Group; author, The Engaged Leader and Open Leadership
In today’s disruptive economy, only the leadersand their organizationswho are open and learn to adapt to the fast-changing needs of customers and employees will survive. Whitehurst speaks from personal experience about what worksand what doesn’tto foster openness and speed. If you have even an inkling of a desire to lead an innovative, fast-moving, and engaged organization, this book is for you.”
JOHN CHAMBERS, Chairman and CEO, Cisco
With The Open Organization, Whitehurst takes us where all leaders need to be if we want to succeed in the futureoutside of our traditional comfort zones.”
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Even better, to my mind, are the examples that Whitehurst shares of other companies and leaders on the cutting edge of the open organization model. It's one thing to read a personal account of one company's efforts; but to see that company in the context of a larger movement to redefine the structure of success in the business world is truly eye opening.
I've been using and contributing to open source software for over a decade, so much of what Whitehurst shares feels self-evident to me. Of course collaborative decision making is hard and messy, but of course the results are almost always better than one person making command decision alone. Despite my own belief in the power of openness, I had yet to see a thorough examination of the business value to such an approach, versus the community value.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Whitehurst for TechCrunch.com in early 2012 (http://tcrn.ch/Ix8AKF) and the seeds of many of the ideas in The Open Organization were clearly present even then. Reading The Open Organization felt, in some ways, like the conclusion to that interview.
Despite my familiarity with open source and my first-hand history with many of the ideas in this book, I found The Open Organization to be a compelling read. The tone is conversational, and easy to read. Examples are plentiful and thought provoking. The scope of the book is appropriate for C-level executives, middle managers, and even individual contributors: an open organization works better when all members participate fully.
One of the things I liked best about the book are the numerous -- yet practical -- calls to action. Each chapter closes with "Jim's Leadership Tips", which is a simple list of questions and suggestions to try within your own organization. These are not sweeping pronouncements, nor are they particularly challening. They are suggestions for things you can try right now, today, to start building success with an open organization. The scope of these suggestions is almost always small, allowing you to try them out one at a time, either with an individual or small team.
Whitehurst does not shy away from the reality that an open organization is hard work. It takes a real committment from leadership to pursue the model that Whitehurst proposes. He reiterates this fact several times through each chapter. But evidence -- from within Red Hat, as well as from other organizations cited in the book -- indicates that the results can be nothing short of amazing.
Bureaucracy is the organizational form designed to maximize control, coordination, and consistency to produce efficiency and reliability. It worked effectively when workers performed rote tasks on assembly lines or in offices. Today we use robots to do these mundane tasks reliably, accurately and efficiently.
Your staff’s abilities that can have the biggest impact on the success of your company, are the ones that cannot be managed. These include enthusiasm, caring, commitment, creativity and so on.
For the last three decades I have come across examples of companies that were designed in anti-bureaucratic forms and that worked exceptionally well, such as the Spanish Mondragon Corporation (75,000 people,) or W.L. Gore (9,000 people in 30 countries).
In an era when a technology-enabled mob can overthrow a dictator, the business question is whether the same energy can be used to drive organizations, serve customers, produce goods or develop software.
Jim Whitehurst believes it can and he is in a unique position to make this assertion.
As the former chief operating officer at Delta Air Lines, where he took a lead role in the company’s much needed restructuring, he understood and ran a top -down, command and control organization. He currently heads Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open-source software, employing more than 7,000 people and with a market value of more than $ 10 billion. Its software is trusted to power submarines, and its customers include the New York Stock Exchange, DreamWorks, Sprint and 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.
Some fifty years ago, the leadership thinker, Warren Bennis, predicted that we would be in organizations that feel like communities, not hierarchies. This is no longer an ideal, it is a business necessity. Beating your competition is no longer a one-time event with a clever strategy that lasts forever. Simply pedalling faster is not enough, and central planning is too time- and resource- consuming.
Whitehurst saw an alternative way in the process at Red Hat and describes its powerful method as “the Open Organization.” Similar methods are in use in the many successful companies he cites. General Electric’s Durham jet engine plant has 400 skilled technicians working in self-organizing teams, with the supervision of only one plant manager. Something similar exists in Whole Foods, Pixar, Zappos and Starbucks.
These are “communities” where the principles are different. The basis for loyalty is a common purpose, not economic dependency. Openness, transparency, participation, and collaboration are the very reasons the companies make money. The best ideas win, regardless of who they come from.
This book is important because so many executives can scarcely imagine an alternative to the organizational status quo, even if they know that bureaucracy is hobbling their organizations and slowing them up. They can feel how close their faster, more nimble universal competitors have come, and they know the danger.
An “open organization” responds to opportunities more quickly, accesses talent and inspires, motivates and empowers people at all levels to act with accountability.
So, how does one move towards an open organization? It starts with the realization that this is a journey not an event, and that many things will have to be different, starting with executive behaviour.
Whitehurst shares a seminal experience he had soon after joining Red Hat. “Early on, I issued what I thought was an order to create a research report. A few days later, I asked the people assigned to the task how things were going. “Oh, we decided it was a bad idea, so we scrapped it,” they told me in good cheer.”
Whitehurst’ response was that the team was correct to turn down the job if they thought it was not a good idea, or as importantly, because he had failed to convince them of its importance.
Open organizations such as Red Hat are the product of complex, subtle, and powerful organizing systems that truly free people to take more initiative, be more creative and more effective.
As business get harder it is easy to forget the role of passion in an organization. The leader’s role in a twenty-first-century organization includes being the “cheerleader-in-chief.” Having boundless passion for the mission is common in start-ups but seems to fade as the organization grows. The 7,000 people in Red Hat spread across more than 80 offices, and working remotely worldwide, are fired by the passion most companies ignore.
Only a deep passion for what the organization stands for drives people to bring their all to their work. Whole Foods has as their purpose nothing less than to provide food and beverages so that their customers become healthier and live fuller lives. Open-source is no different for those who work at Red Hat.
Passion will fade unless it is diligently, carefully and consistently nurtured.
“The Open Organization” is a chronicle of successful practices that Whitehurst uses to fire employees’ passion and really engage them. Engagement is not serving sushi lunches, but rather actually engaging with people, and enabling them to engage with their work and colleagues. The book shows how everyone can and should have an earned level of influence through the merit they display.
Most importantly, it is a fine description of the changing nature of leadership required today. This book could change the way your company functions and change your level success.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of Strategy that Works.
As for employees, a sense of belonging to a community is very important. You should not avoid getting help even from outside your company, as a collaboration,
for a common aim : keeping your organization on the cutting edge, and competitive on the long run.
We've had examples for such blueprints : the Internet for its opennes, Wikipedia for its collaborative works, crowdsourcing for its power of mass participation (the wisdow of the crowd)
This book helps you open your eyes beautifully on better management expectations, and on how to feel better in every field of your professional life.
And you don't feel alone because there a real community already behind this attitude