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The Open Organization Leaders Manual - Instructions for building the workplace of the future

Authors Red Hat Inc.

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        The Open Organization
             Leaders Manual

Instructions for building the workplace of the future
        Copyright © 2017 Red Hat, Inc. All content, including im-
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                         Version 1.1
                               July 2017



                 Also in the series

         From Harvard Business Review Press

The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance, by
Jim Whitehurst


The Open Organization Field Guide: Practical Tips for Igniting
Passion and Performance, by the community

The Open Organization: Catalyst-In-Chief, by Jim Whitehurst

The Open Organization Guide to IT Culture Change: Open Prin-
ciples and Practices for a More Innovative IT Department, by
the community
               Additional reading
      Every week, publishes new stories about
the ways open principles help innovative leaders rethink organi-
zational culture and design.
      Visit to read more.
   Preface                                                    8
      Bryan Behrenshausen

   Introduction                                               10
      Dr. Philip A. Foster

Part 1: New Attitudes

   What it means to be an open leader                         17
     Jim Whitehurst

   A leader's ability is the bottleneck of any organization   24
      Nick Dancer

   The Tao of project management                              29
     Allison Matlack

   How to recognize an open leader when you see one           38
     Huiren Woo

   Good leaders know what economics can't explain
   about open source                                          43
      Bryan Behrenshausen

   Someone left your organization? Time to celebrate          47
     David Burkus

   6 principles for successful digital-era CIOs               51
      Margaret Dawson

Part 2: New Habits

   6 steps to running the perfect 30-minute meeting           58
      Jimmy Sjölund

   How to interview for culture fit                           62
     Sam Knuth
  When empowering employee decision-making, intent
  is everything                                      67
      Ron McFarland

  7 characteristics of open leaders                  72
     Jackie Yeaney

  An open process for discovering your core values   77
     Beth Anderson

  An open leadership development system              84
     DeLisa Alexander

  11 steps to running an online community meeting    93
     Laura Hilliger

  Making open and inclusive decisions                100
    Rebecca Fernandez and DeLisa Alexander


  The Open Organization Definition                   110

Learn More

  Additional resources                               118
  Get involved                                       119
Bryan Behrenshausen

A     s the nature of organization changes, so does the nature
      of leadership.
      As post-industrial conditions expose the limits of com-
mand-and-control structures, organizing by way of fiat or decree
becomes ineffective. As communication technologies become si-
multaneously more ubiquitous and more accessible, maintaining
control through obfuscation becomes untenable. As traditional
organization boundaries bleed and blur, comfortable certainties
about precisely who is leading and who is led melt away.
      And yet the need for effective leaders has not abated. But
what does leadership look like in the age of the networked orga-
      "The skills required to lead a company that relies heavily
on the principles of open innovation are vastly different from
those needed to run a business based on the hierarchical struc-
ture of conventional organization," writes Jim Whitehurst in his
2015 book, The Open Organization. "Changing the way you
might be used to leading will be painful, but it will also be criti -
cal for every twenty-first century leader to understand and
      This is a book about both the pains and the promises of
new leadership models. Part 1, "New Attitudes," explores ways
that leaders have begun adapting their thinking—the ways
they've let open principles seep into their definitions of leader-

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

ship and guide their missions. Part 2, "New Habits," showcases
behaviors open leaders have adopted in pursuit of those mis-
         As leaders everywhere search for methods that leverage
the power of transparency, meritocracy, inclusivity, sharing, and
collaboration when coordinating a next-generation workforce,
they're experimenting with new ideas and new practices. It all
looks more like invention than discovery. But this book contains
narratives detailing the results of those experiments. Think of
them as potential instructions for building the workplace of the

Dr. Philip A. Foster

L     eadership is power. More specifically, leadership is the
      power to influence the actions of others. The mythology of
leadership can certainly conjure images of not only the romantic
but also the sinister side of the human condition. How we ulti-
mately decide to engage in leadership determines its true
      Many modern understandings of leadership are born out
of warfare, where leadership is the skillful execution of com-
mand-and-control thinking. For most of the modern era of
business, then, we engaged leadership as some great man or
woman arriving at the pinnacle of power and exerting this
power through position. Such traditional leadership relies heav-
ily on formal lines of authority through hierarchies and
reporting relationships. Authority in these structures flows down
through the vertical hierarchy and exists along formal lines in
the chain of command.
      However, in the late 20 th century, something began to
change. New technologies opened doors to globalism and thus
more dispersed teams. The way we engaged human capital be-
gan to shift, forever changing the way people communicate with
each other. People inside organizations began to feel empow-
ered, and they demanded a sense of ownership of their
successes (and failures). Leaders were no longer the sole own-
ers of power. The 21st century leader leading the 21st century

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

organization began to understand empowerment, collaboration,
accountability, and clear communication were the essence of a
new kind of power. These new leaders began sharing that power
—and they implicitly trusted their followers.
         As organizations continue becoming more open, even indi-
viduals without "leadership" titles feel empowered to drive
change. These organizations remove the chains of hierarchy and
untether workers to do their jobs in the ways they best see fit.
History has exposed 20th century leaders' tendencies to strangle
agility through unilateral decision-making and unidirectional in-
formation flows. But the new century's leader best defines an
organization by the number of individuals it empowers to get
something done. There's power in numbers—and, frankly, one
leader cannot be in all places at all times, making all the deci -
         So leaders are becoming open, too.

         Where the leaders of old are focused on command-and-
control positional power, an open leader cedes organizational
control to others via new forms of organizational governance,
new technologies, and other means of reducing friction, thereby
enabling collective action in a more efficient manner. These
leaders understand the power of trust, and believe followers will
always show initiative, engagement, and independence. And this
new brand of leadership requires a shift in tactics—from telling
people what to do to showing them what to do and coaching
them along the way. Open leaders quickly discover that leader-
ship is not about the power we exert to influence progress, but
the power and confidence we distribute among the members of
the organization. The 21st century leader is focused on commu-

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

nity and the edification of others. In the end, the open leader is
not focused on self but is selfless.

      The 20th century leader hordes and controls the flow of in-
formation   throughout     the    organization.      The   open   leader,
however, seeks to engage an organization by sharing informa-
tion and context (as well as authority) with members of a team.
These leaders destroy fiefdoms, walk humbly, and share power
like never before. The collective empowerment and engaged col-
laboration they inspire create agility, shared responsibility,
ownership—and, above all, happiness. When members of an or-
ganization are empowered to do their jobs, they're happier (and
thus more productive) than their hierarchical counterparts.

      Open leaders embrace uncertainty and trust their follow-
ers to do the right thing at the right time. They possess an
ability to engage human capital at a higher level of efficiency
than their traditional counterparts. Again: They don't operate as
command-and-control micromanagers. Elevating transparency,
they don't operate in hiding, and they do their best to keep deci-
sions and actions out in the open, explaining the basis on which
decisions get made and assuming employees have a high level
grasp of situations within the organization. Open leaders oper-
ate from the premise that the organization's human capital is
more than capable of achieving success without their constant

      Where the powerful command-and-control 20 th century
leader is focused on some position of power, an open leader is

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

more interested in the actual role an individual plays within the
organization. When a leader is focused on an individual, they're
better able to coach and mentor members of a team. From this
perspective, an open leader is focused on modeling behaviors
and actions that are congruent with the organization's vision
and mission. In the end, an open leader is very much seen as a
member of the team rather than the head of the team. This does
not mean the leader abdicates a position of authority, but rather
understates it in an effort to share power and empower individu-
als through autonomy to create results.

      Open leaders are focused on granting authority to mem-
bers of an organization. This process acknowledges the skills,
abilities, and trust the leader has in the organization's human
capital, and thereby creates positive motivation and willingness
for the entire team to take risks. Empowerment, in the end, is
about helping followers believe in their own abilities. Followers
who believe that they have personal power are more likely to
undertake initiatives, set and achieve higher goals, and persist
in the face of difficult circumstances. Ultimately the concept of
an open organization is about inclusivity, where everyone be-
longs and individuality and differing opinions are essential to
success. An open organization and its open leaders offer a sense
of community, and members are motivated by the organization's
mission or purpose. This creates a sense of belonging to some-
thing bigger than the individual. Individuality creates happiness
and job satisfaction among its members. In turn, higher degrees
of efficiency and success are achieved.
      We should all strive for the openness the 21st century
leader requires. This requires self-examination, curiosity—and,
above all, it's ongoing process of change. Through new attitudes

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

and habits, we move toward the discovery of what an open
leader really is and does, and hopefully we begin to take on
those ideals as we adapt our leadership styles to the 21 st cen-
        Yes, leadership is power. How we use that power deter-
mines the success or failure of our organizations. Those who
abuse power don't last, but those who share power and cele-
brate others do. By reading this book, you are beginning to play
an important role in the ongoing conversation of the open orga-
nization and its leadership. And at the conclusion of this volume,
you'll find additional resources and opportunities to connect
with the open organization community, so that you too can chat,
think, and grow with us. Welcome to the conversation—welcome
to the journey!
                                                          September 2016

Dr. Philip A. Foster is the author of The Open Organization: A
New Era of Leadership and Organizational Development. He is a
business consultant, international speaker, and the host of Maxi-
mum Change TV.

Part 1: New Attitudes
What it means to be an open leader
Jim Whitehurst

B      eing an open leader means creating the context others
       need to do their best work.
      That's a relatively short sentence, but for anyone wishing
to lead a group in the 21st century, its implications are enor-
mous. And if you're hoping to be one of those people—if you're
hoping to have a career leading an open organization—then you
must not only understand what it means, but also recognize
ways you can put it into practice, so you can build a culture that
creates a strategic, competitive advantage for your organization.

Context shapes culture
      Culture is something management gurus are increasingly
taking more seriously. "Culture eats strategy for breakfast5," I've
heard people say. But I'm not sure that all of those folks truly
understand why this is the case.
      Despite depictions in popular media, a great company cul-
ture isn't simply the result of workplace perks and ping pong
tables. Culture is the result of sufficient context—a shared set of
values, a shared purpose, and shared meanings.
      Being a leader in an open organization, then, means mak-
ing connections: It involves doing the work of linking people


                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

both to each other and to some larger, shared picture. It's help-
ing people understand how they can contribute to a collective
effort in meaningful ways.
      As a leader, you create context when you help everyone in
the organization understand its whole mission: the vision, the
values—all the elements that define your very reason for exist-
ing. An open leader also helps people recognize the vast sum of
interactions taking place that make an organization what it is—
the aims, goals, and passions that push individuals to work to-
      So when we talk about "creating context," we're really
talking about bringing these two facets of organizational life to-
gether in exciting and productive ways. An open leader aligns
passion with purpose, action with vision. And that creates a cul-
ture where people feel inspired, motivated, and empowered to
do their very best work.
      Shaping that culture begins with an emphasis on sharing.

Learn to share
      In conventional organizations, "knowledge is power." But
in open organizations, that well-worn adage can be a destructive
and downright disastrous guiding principle.
      Some leaders believe that extending trust and operating
transparently will somehow diminish their power. In reality,
however, leaders should be sharing as much as they can with
their organizations. Sharing information is how leaders begin to
build the context that people in an organization need to forge
connections between their passions and the organization's mis-
sion. Open leaders are honest about the problems they face, the
worries they carry, and the limits they possess—because, in the
end, the problems leaders face are the problems everyone faces.
Shared knowledge is power.

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      The problems leaders hear about from customers—the
things that keep them up at night—that's the information we
need to share with our entire organization. Because when we
provide that context and share those problems, we inspire and
empower people to help us overcome them. In The Open Organi-
zation, for instance, I describe how sharing my priority of
making Red Hat more customer-focused—and thereby inviting
others to help me achieve it—generated unique, creative, and
valuable insights from people across the organization.
      I've met people who believe "sharing more" actually
means "delegating more." But that's not necessarily the case. In
the traditional sense, "delegation" involves sharing responsibil-
ity for implementing a solution the leader has already dreamed
up and settled on. What I'm talking about is different: sharing
the work of actually developing those solutions, so associates
have genuine influence over both the course their work will take
and the purpose it will serve.
      If this sounds hard, that's because it is. At Red Hat, we
put a lot of effort behind hiring for and developing these kinds of
leadership capabilities. We take the time to explain them to peo-
ple, to coach people on what it takes to connect, to be
transparent, and to extend trust.
      We even talk about what overuse and underuse of these
capabilities looks like. For example, we've found that it's impor-
tant to explain that transparency isn't an excuse for rude
behavior, nor does it mean you disclose confidential information
about associates or our business. Trust doesn't mean you give
people assignments without any direction or context, or that you
fail to verify that work they've completed.

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Develop your EQ
      In an open organization, leaders must be sensitive to nu-
ances—knowing how to share and how to invite collaboration in
ways that keep an organization from dissolving into chaos. A
leader's mandate to help people do their best work involves not
just an understanding of leadership capabilities like connection,
trust, and transparency, but also a certain familiarity with—and
sensitivity to—the feelings, emotions, and passions of the people
that leader is trying to help.
      In The Open Organization, for example, I discuss the need
for leaders to share half-baked ideas with their organizations, to
bring plans or concepts to the table before they're fully devel-
oped, in order to receive productive feedback sooner. The best
leaders can pinpoint precisely when to present a half-baked idea
—not so early as to distract people with an idea that may not
play out, but not so late as to preclude any opportunity for pro-
ductive discussion.
      Spotting those opportune moments—really sensing them—
requires leaders to be in tune with their organizations' emo-
tional atmospheres.
      Think about it this way: Great leaders give people enough
structure to know they're marching up the right hill, but those
leaders don't want to prescribe a single road north, because
they need the people making the journey to feel empowered to
control that journey. This way, they don't exhaust themselves
trying to climb over a massive rock in their way, and instead de-
vise a smarter method for getting around it.
      The trick for leaders is providing enough clarity of pur-
pose—enough      context—that      people     are    able   to   help   an
organization accomplish its goals, but not so much that they're
impeded from exercising their creativity and initiative in the

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      Information overload doesn't create context. Distraction
doesn't create context. Strong emotional intelligence helps lead-
ers avoid both.

Be a catalyst, not a commander
      Deciding to share (and determining how to share) drives
open leaders to an important conclusion: a group is always go-
ing to produce a better solution than an individual.
      Leaders of conventional organizations are commanders.
They dictate and prescribe both means and ends, then monitor
people to make sure they use the former to achieve the latter.
      Leaders of open organizations are catalysts.
      Chemistry tells us that a catalyst is an agent that, when
added to a mixture, sparks a productive change. This is pre -
cisely the role leaders play in open organizations. They create
context that invites people into relationships with new (even sur-
prising) results. And they do this because they believe, truly and
deeply, that the groups they help form will develop better solu-
tions than the leader could alone.
      I won't deny it: Being a leader means constantly being
tempted to step in, to force decisions, to command. Comman-
ders generally consider collaborative dialogue a grueling waste
of time ("I just need to tell people what to do," they say). Sure,
they may go so far as to hold meetings about, invite comments
on, and ask for feedback regarding their ideas. But in the end,
those are empty gestures, because they've already decided that
they know what's best.
      Catalysts, on the other hand, believe that if they get the
right conversations going—if they spark the right kinds of col-
laboration—then their organizations will realize better results.
Leaders can only become catalysts when they let go of the as-
sumption that, categorically, they know best.

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

       Without a doubt, being a catalyst is actually more difficult
than being a commander. Since open organizations tend to be
meritocracies, in which reputation and a long history of con-
crete contributions trump job titles as markers of organizational
power and influence, leaders must be constantly balancing the
skills, personalities, and cultural capital they see in their col-
leagues. Far from dictating, they need to master the art of
making appropriate connections—producing the proper combi-
nations—that ignite the most influential innovations.
       Yet being a catalyst is also more rewarding than being a
commander. Parents, consider this: Did you feel more proud
when you graduated from college, or when your kids graduated
from college? If you're like me, the answer is: your kids. Cata-
lysts experience that same sense of pride parents do when they
watch those they've helped succeed.

A checklist
       So here's a checklist for those hoping to make a career
leading an open organization. Being an open leader requires:
   •    Willingness to extend trust and share information
   •    Appreciation for transparency and collaboration when-
        ever possible
   •    Sensitivity to the moods, emotions, and passions of the
        people that make up an organization
   •    Knowledge of not only what to share, but how to share
   •    Belief that groups will consistently outperform individu-
        als working in isolation
   •    Trust in those groups to drive necessary change
       Master all this, and you're well on your way to creating
the most important thing a leader can provide: the context for
people to do their best work.

                 The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Jim Whitehurst is President and CEO of Red Hat, the world's
leading provider of open source enterprise IT products and ser-
vices, and author of The Open Organization.

A leader's ability is the bottleneck of any
Nick Dancer

A       leader's ability is the bottleneck of any organization.
      That's something I learned through years of work for
many different types of leaders. So when I founded my own com-
pany—Dancer Concrete Design6, which specializes in enhancing
interior environments through polished concrete floors and
epoxy floor coatings—I knew I didn't want to become a bottle-
neck for innovation and communication.
      All those previous bosses had something in common: They
saw themselves as the "top" of an organization, and every idea
or decision had to pass through them. In other words, they were
bottlenecks. To avoid becoming a bottleneck myself, I had to em-
brace open principles.
      I picked up The Open Organization after Verne Harish7
recommended it in his weekly newsletter. When I started read-
ing, I realized this was going to be one of those books I'd be
underlining all over, one I will have to review often to fully un-
derstand and implement.
      But I knew this much: It presented a clear path forward
for my fledgling construction company.



                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Scaling up
      Because Dancer Concrete began as a company with one
employee (me), all decision making naturally went through one
employee (again, me!). At first, this was enjoyable. But as we
grew to nearly 10 team members (we now have about 16, and
we continue to grow), I started feeling like I didn't always have
the best information or skill set to be accountable for so many
things. The fact of the matter was that I knew my own capabili-
ties well enough to know that I'd stunt my own company's
success if I continued to want to be accountable for all parts of
our business. And this would also stop others from growing in
our organization—where I would be the leader and everyone
else would just "do as I say." This type of environment does not
allow others' potential to blossom, and it can can start to create
the type of workplace where others don't want to go to work: a
dead-end with no opportunities for growth in sight.
      I started Dancer Concrete intending to make it a place
people actually wanted to be every day, a place where they
could enjoy what they did. Yes, our work can be physically de-
manding and sometimes our job sites can be abrasive, so the
goal has always been to do the best we can while our team is to-
gether and to always be improving.
      We started out trying to make our business more fun by
little things like free snacks and drinks and going bowling to-
gether, but "benefits" like these are quickly lost if the work itself
is not rewarding. People are smart and have unlimited potential,
so it was important to also create an environment where they
were important and contributing to something much more than
themselves. We were looking to go deeper and have more im-
pact in people's lives.

                        The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Concrete suggestions
         Here's one thing I took away from The Open Organization:
I needed a way to make certain people in our organization fully
accountable for certain aspects of our company. This helped in
two distinct ways:
    1.    We had people leading things in their individual areas of
          expertise, and they were much better in that specific
          role than I could ever be. This helps us grow and be a
          better-run company.
    2.    We had clear systems of accountability and knowledge of
          who was executing on their responsibilities on a consis-
          tent basis.
         Let me explain one example of how our accountability sys-
tem works. Every team that goes into the field to complete work
is lead by a Field Team Leader. Really, being a Field Team
Leader is one of the most important roles in the company. These
people lead the teams that perform the work of installing the
products we make. Every Field Team Leader is accountable for
maintaining communication with our client during the installa-
tion process and making sure the client's needs are being taken
care of (and their expectations are being met).
         We accomplish this through daily communication, and we
finalize a job by having the client sign off on the work and com-
plete a survey about how we performed. We then share this
survey data with the entire team, every week, and track these
results as part of our key performance indicators. By sharing
with the entire team, we make sure Field Team Leaders are ac-
countable for the company's work in the field. It's not just their
reputations on the line, but the image of the entire organization.
         The Open Organization also stresses the importance of
having open dialogue between team members. We do this with

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

two meetings: a weekly team meeting and a monthly business
growth meeting.
      The weekly team meeting gathers all team members every
Monday, first thing, at 7 a.m. (because we're in the construction
business, our days typically start a bit earlier than most). In this
meeting, we discuss last week's victories and challenges. We try
to foster an environment where people can say "Hey, I messed
up last week by doing this" without negative remarks or reper-
cussions. We think there is tremendous learning from this kind
of sharing.
      Then, once each month on a Saturday, the team comes to-
gether for a business growth meeting, where we share our key
performance indicators for the previous month. These numbers
represent total sales, total proposals, quality score, and cus-
tomer feedback. During this time, we discuss our wins and
opportunities with the entire team, and we share ideas for im-
proving or changing the items we should even be tracking. With
the exception of employee compensation, our team has nearly
complete access to all business-related data.
      These meetings taught me something about misgivings
people tend to hold about open organizations: These misgivings
are based on fear—fear that competitors will find out informa-
tion about one's company, fear that people share the "bad stuff"
about that company, fear that someone will leave that company
and become a competitor. Sure, these are all legitimate fears,
but even if these things do happen, they don't outweigh the ad-
vantages being a more open organization.
      Our journey toward being a more open organization con-
tinues. We're still finding new and innovative ways to apply
lessons from The Open Organization.
      And that means I'm never a bottleneck.

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Nick Dancer is the owner/operator of Dancer Concrete Design
in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a company that specializing in enhanc-
ing interior spaces with stained and polished concrete floors
and epoxy floor coatings.

The Tao of project management
Allison Matlack

T     he Tao Te Ching8, believed to have been written 9 by the
      sage Lao Tzu10 in the 6th century BCE, is among the most
widely translated texts in existence. It has inspired everything
from religions to funny movies about dating, and authors have
used it as a metaphor to explain all kinds of things (even pro-
       This text is what immediately comes to my mind when
thinking about project management in open organizations.
       That might sound strange. But to understand where I'm
coming from, you should start by reading The Open Organiza-
tion: Igniting Passion and Performance, Red Hat president and
CEO Jim Whitehurst's manifesto on corporate culture and the
new leadership paradigm. In this book, Jim (with a little help
from other Red Hatters) explains the difference between con-
ventional organizations (a "top-down" approach, with decisions
coming down from central command to employees motivated by
promotion and pay) and open organizations (a bottom-up ap-
proach, with leaders focused on inspiring purpose and passion
so employees are empowered to be and do their best).




                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      This concept—that employees in open organizations are
motivated by passion, purpose, and engagement—plays directly
into where I think project managers should focus.
      And to explain, I'll return to the Tao Te Ching.

Don't let your job title define you
      The tao that can be told
      is not the eternal Tao
      The name that can be named
      is not the eternal Name.

      The unnameable is the eternally real.
      Naming is the origin
      of all particular things.11

      What exactly is project management? And what does a
project manager do?
      As you might expect, part of being a project manager is
managing projects: gathering requirements, managing stake-
holder     communication,    setting     priority,    scheduling    tasks,
helping the team resolve blockers. Many institutions        12
                                                                 can teach
you how to manage projects very well, and these are good skills
to have.
      However, literally managing projects is only part of what
project managers in open organizations do. These organizations
require something more: Courage. If you're good at managing
projects (or if you're good at any job, really), then you can start



                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

to feel safe in your routine. That's when you know you need to
find the courage to take a risk.
      Do you have the courage to step outside of your comfort
zone? The courage to ask important people challenging ques-
tions that might raise eyebrows, but that might also uncover a
better way forward? The courage to identify the next thing that
needs to be done—then the courage to go and do it? The
courage to call out communication gaps and take initiative to fix
them? The courage to try things? The courage to fail?
      The opening passage of the Tao Te Ching (which I cited
above) suggests that words, labels, and names are limiting. That
includes job titles. In open organizations, project managers
don't just perform the rote tasks required to manage projects.
They help teams accomplish the organization's mission, however

Connect the right people
      We join spokes together in a wheel,
      but it is the center hole
      that makes the wagon move.13

      One of the most difficult lessons I had to learn as I transi-
tioned into project management was that not having all the
answers was perfectly acceptable, even expected. That was new
for me. I like having all the answers. But as a project manager,
my role is more about connecting people—so the ones who do
have the answers can collaborate efficiently.


                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      This does not mean dodging responsibility or ownership.
This means being comfortable saying, "I don't know, but I will
find out for you," and closing that loop as quickly as possible.
      Picture a wagon wheel. Without the stability and direction
provided by the center hole, the spokes would fall and the wheel
collapse in on itself. Project managers in an open organization
can help a team maintain forward momentum by bringing the
right people together and cultivating the right discussions.

Trust your team
      When the Master governs, the people
      are hardly aware that he exists.
      Next best is a leader who is loved.
      Next, one who is feared.
      The worst is one who is despised.

      If you don't trust the people,
      you make them untrustworthy.

      The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
      When his work is done,
      the people say, "Amazing:
      we did it, all by ourselves!"14

      Rebecca Fernandez15 once told me that what differentiates
leaders in open organizations is not the trust people have in
them, but the trust they have in other people.
      Open organizations do a great job hiring smart people
who are passionate about what their companies are doing. In or-



                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

der for them to do their best work, we have to give them what
they need and then get out of their way.
      Here, I think the above passage from the Tao Te Ching
speaks for itself.

Be effortless
      The Master does nothing
      yet he leaves nothing undone.
      The ordinary man is always doing things,
      yet many more are left to be done.16

      Do you know the type of person who is always extremely
busy? The one who seems frazzled and stressed with too many
things to do?
      Don't be that person.
      I know that's easier said than done. The thing that most
helps me keep from being that person is remembering that we
are all extremely busy. I don't have a single co-worker who is
      But someone needs to be the calm in the middle of the
storm. Someone needs to be the person who reassures the team
that everything is going to be okay, that we'll find a way to get
things done within the parameters dictated by reality and the
number of business hours in a day (because that's the truth, and
we have to).
      Be that person.
      What this passage of the Tao Te Ching says to me is that
the person who's always talking about what she or he is doing
has no time to actually do those things. If you can make your job


                      The Open Organization Leaders Manual

seem effortless to those around you, then you're doing your job

Be a culture coach

         When a superior man hears of the Tao,
         he immediately begins to embody it.
         When an average man hears of the Tao,
         he half believes it, half doubts it.
         When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
         he laughs out loud.
         If he didn't laugh,
         it wouldn't be the Tao.17

         Last fall, I enrolled an MBA business ethics class with a
bunch of federal employees. When I started describing my com-
pany's culture, values, and ethics framework, I got the direct
impression that both my classmates and my professor thought I
was a naive young lady with a lot of lovely daydreams 18 about
how companies should run. They told me things couldn't possi-
bly be as they seemed. They said I should investigate further.
         So I did.
         And here's what I found: Things are exactly as they seem.
         In open organizations, culture matters. Maintaining that
culture as an organization grows makes it possible to wake up
and look forward to going to work in the morning. I (and other
members of open organizations) don't want to "work to live," as
my classmates described it. I need to feel a passion and pur-



                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

pose, to understand how the work I do on a daily basis directly
contributes to something I believe in.
      As a project manager, you might think that your job has
nothing to do with cultivating your company's culture on your
team. However, it's your job to embody it.

      In pursuit of knowledge,
      every day something is added.
      In the practice of the Tao,
      every day something is dropped.
      Less and less do you need to force things,
      until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing
      is done,
      nothing is left undone.19

      The general field of project management is too focused on
the latest and greatest tools. But the answer to the question of
which tool you should use is always the same: "the simplest."
      For example, I keep my running to-do list in a text file on
my desktop because it serves its purpose without unnecessary
distractions. Whatever tools, processes, and procedures you in-
troduce to a team should increase efficiency and remove
obstacles, not introduce additional complexity. So instead of fo-
cusing on the tools, focus on the problem(s) you're using those
tools to solve.
      My favorite part of being a project manager in an Agile
world is having the freedom to throw out what doesn't work.


                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

This is related to the concept of kaizen 20, or "continuous im-
provement." Don't be afraid to try and fail. Failing is the label
we've put on the process of learning what works and what
doesn't. But it's the only way to improve.
      The best processes arise organically. As a project man-
ager, you can help your team by supporting them and not trying
to force them into anything.

      Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
      Others call it lofty but impractical.
      But to those who have looked inside themselves,
      this nonsense makes perfect sense.
      And to those who put it into practice,
      this loftiness has roots that go deep.21

      I believe in what open organizations are doing. What open
organizations are doing for the field of management is almost as
important as the actual products and services they offer. We
have an opportunity to lead by example, to inspire passion and
purpose in others, to create working environments that inspire
and empower.
      I encourage you to find ways to incorporate some of these
ideas into your own projects and teams to see what happens.
Learn about your organization's mission and how your projects
contribute to it. Have courage, expect to try some things that
won't work, and don't forget to share the lessons you learn with
our community so we can continue to improve.



                 The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Allison Matlack is a project manager leading case management
teams at Red Hat. Previously, she was the content editor/man-
ager for the Red Hat Customer Portal for more than three years.

How to recognize an open leader when
you see one
Huiren Woo

N        ot too long ago, my friends and I were talking about open
         leadership. We began discussing what "type" of leader
we all are, and we specifically noted how some people use
power and status as a tool for leadership, while others have a
certain charismatic personality that makes them a leader.
      I interjected with a question: "Then what kind of leader
am I?"
      And both friends replied: "You're not a leader."
      I was shocked. I've always taken a collaborative and inclu-
sive approach to solving problems and completing tasks. And
yet, in the eyes of others, I didn't seem to have any leadership
      This gave me an idea: to help others recognize open lead-
ership qualities when they see them in action. The truth is that
many open leadership practices just don't resemble traditional
leadership practices, so people don't often recognize them as
leadership practices at all. But that doesn't mean they aren't ef-
      In my mind, open leaders really understand how to be ap-
preciative, open, and helpful. These common, everyday practices
might not seem like anything special, but they truly are—and I'm
often surprised how many leaders don't recognize them.

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      So here's my advice to anyone wondering how to become
a more open leader.

Be appreciative
      First, always say "thank you" to others and make them
feel comfortable. When I first met with Dirk Peter Van
Leeuwen22 of Red Hat, he made me feel that I was on the same
level as he was (despite his status both in his organization and
in the open source community). When I introduced myself as
one of contributors of Fedora Project, without hesitation, he
smiled and said to me, "Ah, you're from the Fedora Project!
Thank you for your contribution!" It was sincere and genuine,
and it made me feel like someone truly appreciated my commu-
nity contributions. It also motivated me to keep contributing.
Words are very powerful, and saying "thanks" is one of the ways
open leaders can motivate others.
      Too often, more traditional leaders take employees for
granted—perhaps even think employees should feel privileged
while working for them. These leaders never treated their em-
ployees well—not a single heartfelt "thanks" for employees' hard
work. I've encountered people so blinded by their egos that their
good employees have left their teams, leaving them with those
who work almost solely for money.
      Your employees and teammates are the core of your entire
organization's "infrastructure." Without a strong, passionate in-
frastructure, your organization will collapse. Recognize their
efforts at being part of the team and demonstrating the values
you wish to aspire. Saying "thank you" not only demonstrates


                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

that you value those efforts, but also indicates that you realize
you couldn't succeed without them.

Be open
      Don't wall others off, and don't be afraid to share your
knowledge. All of us are born with a pair of ears—but only one
mouth. So try to listen and understand more than you talk. Em-
pathy is difficult; talk is cheap.
      Whenever I talk to open leaders like Darwin Gosal 23 or
Chern Jie24, I can easily tell that they're always trying to contex-
tualize and understand what I'm trying to say. Even if they do
not share the same sentiments I do, they still take their time to
understand my perspective. And whenever I ask a question, they
aren't afraid to share their knowledge with me.
      Traditional leaders might not be as willing to share knowl-
edge. And even if they do, they always seem to retain some sort
of "secret knowledge" that they never share. This is because
they believe that knowledge is king, the key to their power as
leaders. This makes them appear incredibly stubborn, not ac-
cepting of others' opinions—and some even mock others for
those differences in opinion. Being open and willing to share is a
better way to inspire others to help you reach a goal.

Be helpful
      When problems arise, don't just point fingers. Pitch in,
take initiative, and fix them. When your teammate or friend
needs help, assist them with knowledge and advice, but also by
helping them do the work that's causing them difficulty. Doing
this doesn't cost you anything.



                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      When I needed help with Linux commands, I knew who to
ask for help: Loong Jin25, an approachable ex-Red Hat contractor
who have had years of experience with Linux distributions. He's
extremely friendly, and always gives great advice on ways to
learn certain things. Even though I have newbie questions, he
answered them and never put me down. He even encourages
and motivates others—especially those who are new.
      I've met managers and bosses that only know how to talk.
In the end, as the saying goes: Empty vessels make the most
noise. These people don't really think to do anything, and don't
bother finding out how. Being an open leader means that you
need to deeply understand the work your teams are doing, even
to the point where you might be able to do it yourself. That's the
best route to achieving empathy.

      After reflecting on that conversation with my friends, I've
realized that anyone can be an open leader. Just remember that
these leaders don't necessarily stand out in a crowd. More often
than not, they are part of the communities they serve—empow-
ering and inspiring others with their actions. Being an open
leader doesn't necessarily require any form of power or status.
Nor do you need to be especially charismatic, as generations of
built-up knowledge about leadership would seem to suggest.
      Because of that, undoubtedly, some people might not rec-
ognize open leadership when they see it. Being appreciative,
open, and helpful are simple human characteristics that build
trust—the foundation of any relationship. When you've estab-
lished that trust, people will have confidence in your actions and
you'll gain their support—just as I now trust Darwin, Chern Jie


                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

and Loong Jin, and have confidence that their actions will bene-
fit our communities and society.
      Not all of us come from glorious or rich backgrounds. But
no matter our backgrounds, we can learn to always be kind and
change our attitudes. It might take time, but, eventually, you too
can become an open leader.

Huiren Woo is an ambassador in both the Fedora and Open Or-
ganization communities. He's currently studying information
technology at a polytechnic in Singapore.

Good leaders know what economics can't
explain about open source
Bryan Behrenshausen

L     ast week, I lucked into 30 minutes on the phone with one
      of my favorite people: author, speaker, blogger, and ac-
tivist Cory Doctorow26. Our conversation ran the gamut—from
open source's role in building a better future 27, to the function of
science fiction literature today, to Cory's preference for prose
over code. At one point, Cory offered a rather succinct and
evocative explanation of what motivates people to contribute to
open source projects. And what he said got me thinking about
open organizations.
      Making open source software, Cory explained, is an artis-
tic endeavor. Any analysis of why people do it should begin with
that assumption.
      "People don't make art for market reasons if they're being
rational actors," Cory told me, "because the expected return of
their artistic endeavors is somewhere between 'zero' and 'noth-
ing', in the same way that they expect a return on the Powerball.
It doesn't mean that people don't win the Powerball; it just
means that if you're being a rational economic actor, then you



                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

don't invest your money in Powerball. I feel like the same is true
of the arts."
      People contribute to open source projects for any number
of reasons, Cory said, but two of those consistently stand out to
him. The first he called (using a phrase generations of open
source programmers, following Eric Raymond, have preferred)
"scratching an itch."
      "There's just something you want done, or it would tickle
you if it were done, and so you make it," Cory said. "There are a
lot of labors of love, and I think that most of art is, at core, this
kind of labor of love."
      Cory called the second reason people make open source
software the "Stallmanian" one.
      "Ethical hacking," he clarified. "There's an intervention
you want the work to make in the world, that will make the
world a better place for some important reason. That's another
reason people make art."
      Cory Doctorow certainly isn't the first to puzzle over peo-
ples' motivations for contributing to open source projects. For
some time, in fact, bright minds have been trying to determine
just what drives people to work the open source way.
      And they agree with Doctorow on at least one point: fram-
ing the problem simply in economic terms won't furnish an
adequate answer.
      In fact, from a purely (albeit traditional) economic per-
spective, "open source" shouldn't even work. Political scientist
Steven Weber explored this conundrum in his 2004 book, The
Success of Open Source28. It's perhaps the most sustained and
rigorous investigation of open source's political economy that
I've ever read.


                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

        "The microfoundations of the open source process depend
on behavior that is at first glance surprising, even startling," We-
ber writes. "Public goods theory predicts that nonrival and
nonexcludable goods ought to encourage free riding. Particu-
larly if the good is subject to collective provision, and many
people must contribute together to get something of value, the
system should unravel backward toward underprovision."
        In other words, because open source code is available to
anyone (that is, it's "non-excludable"), and because it's easily
replicable at low (or no) cost (i.e., it's "non-rival"), received eco-
nomic theory would seem to suggest that no one should feel
motivated to maintain, improve, or add value to it.
        "Why, then, do highly talented programmers choose volun-
tarily to allocate some or a substantial portion of their time and
mind space to a joint project for which they will not be compen-
sated?" Weber asks.
        Why, indeed. What, then, is the incentive?
        Like Cory Doctorow, we might ask the same question of
any creative practice—especially those people undertake to-
gether. Jim Whitehurst does. In The Open Organization, Jim
explains the need to consider employees' motivations beyond
the matter of the paycheck. Today, he says, employees demand a
concrete sense of purpose at work, something that transcends
economic compensation. Maybe they want to scratch an itch.
Maybe they want to populate the world with something they
think would bring others great joy. Maybe they want to inter-
        Whatever the reason, economic rationality won't illumi-
nate it. But open leaders need to discover it. And they can turn
to open source communities for insight. Yet again, they likely
have something important to teach us about the reasons we or-
ganize today.

                The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Bryan Behrenshausen is a writer based in Durham, NC. He's
been a member of the team since 2011, and in
2015 he earned his PhD in Communication from UNC, Chapel
Hill. Around the Net, he goes by the nickname "semioti-

Someone left your organization? Time to
David Burkus

A     s individual job tenure in companies becomes shorter,
      leaders say goodbye to even their best people more fre-
quently. How they do this—whether they celebrate or shun the
departed—affects not just those leaving but those who stay, as
well as the performance of both the old and new firms.
      Companies that maintain alumni networks are in a better
position to leverage a principle that sociologists call "embedded-
ness." Every industry is a network of connections: companies,
clients, vendors, competitors, and partners. Embeddedness
refers to a company's location in the larger network. And loca-
tion matters: research shows that the strength of a company's
relationships to other entities in the industry directly affects
that company's financial strength.
      This effect was first uncovered by Brian Uzzi in research
he conducted early in his career. In fact, it was his doctoral dis-
sertation. Uzzi decided to study the garment industry in New
York City, a complex network that he was already a little familiar
with. "When my family came over here [the United States] from
Italy, they both went into the needle trade. My grandfather was
a tailor; my mother went to sewing school," he recalled. Uzzi
knew that the New York City garment industry was a network
ripe for study, and he knew that different company leaders inter-

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

acted differently. What he wanted to find out was whether their
actions in the network made a difference for their company.
      Uzzi studied twenty-three apparel firms in New York City
and conducted interviews with each company's CEO and other
key executives. He also observed interactions with company em-
ployees and distributors, customers, suppliers, and competitors.
In addition, he gathered information on company transactions
through the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (IL-
GWU), the trade union to which over 80 percent of New York's
better apparel firms belonged. The union kept records on the
volume of exchanges between different firms in the industry.
Uzzi also modeled the likelihood of failure for each firm in the
industry against his research on the companies, based on the
number of firms that failed during the calendar year of his re-
search. When he analyzed all of his research and compared a
firm's network interactions with its likelihood of failure, Uzzi
found something surprising.
      As he suspected, different firms interacted in the industry
differently, and the differences mattered. "Embedded networks
of organizations achieve a certain competitive advantage over
market arrangements," Uzzi wrote in his article on the research.
Some firms did business with only a few trusted vendors (what
Uzzi labeled "close-knit ties"), while others portioned out their
business by giving many small assignments to various firms
("arm's-length ties"). He found that having strong close-knit ties
did increase a firm's chances of survival—but only to a point be-
fore being too close with too few firms began to have a negative
      The firms with the most success in the industry main-
tained a solid mix of close-knit and arm's-length ties and
selectively chose which ties to use when. "There's this balance
between having arm's-length ties that don't go as deeply into the

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

relationship, but allow you to scan the market more broadly,"
Uzzi explained. "At the same time, the energy spent that you
might put into a close-knit tie could have been split up among or
across many arm's-length ties. That allows you to get informa-
tion from many different points of view and then integrate it to
produce the very best benefit."
      A firm that is too distant from other firms in the industry
can't leverage the benefits of trust or get help to solve the chal-
lenges they might face. At the same time, being too close to only
a few firms prevents the individual company from getting
enough new market information and being adaptive to changes
in the industry.
      That balance between close-knit and arm's-length ties is
exactly what an alumni network brings to its parent organiza-
tion. Current employees and clients become the close-knit ties
with whom the company interacts frequently. At the same time,
former employees scattered across industries and sectors pro-
vide arm's-length ties that can relay important information and
serve as important connections. "If I were running a company,"
Uzzi outlined, "I would want to maintain strong ties with some
firms. But I would also like to have lots of looser ties that could
be from my alumni network. Not necessarily people that I would
want to approach and attempt to get new business from, but to
use as more or less market research. So I could find out what's
going on in their company, in their market—just kind of general
information. I would want that mix of sources for market infor-
      Companies that engage or build alumni networks are still
in the minority, but their numbers are on the rise. As the nature
of work and the nature of management change, the way even
former workers are managed is changing along with it. The ben-
efits that companies have reaped from networks, as well as the

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

research on the importance of a proper blend of network con-
nections, definitely support the concept of keeping in touch with
former employees. There is real value in celebrating departures
and making sure that a farewell simply becomes a "see you

David Burkus is the author of Under New Management. He is
host of the Radio Free Leader podcast and associate professor
of management at Oral Roberts University.

6 principles for successful digital-era
Margaret Dawson

A            t a recent meeting, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Curt
             Carver29, CIO at the University of Alabama at Birming-
ham, speak on the priorities (and challenges) for today's CIOs.
Themes from his talk were familiar, but important: CIOs must
help the business grow, gain competitive advantage, and remain
secure. He also emphasized many challenges: IT skill set, mod-
ernizing IT while keeping the lights on, and maintaining security
and compliance.
         But his key message was this: CIOs must be transparent,
engaged with their community, and available.
         Theresa Payton, Chief Advisor and CEO of Fortalice Solu-
tions   30
             and former White House CIO, built on these themes at
another recent conference I attended. While her "gig" is secu-
rity, she focuses heavily on openness and "humanness" of both
security technology and culture, telling IT leaders they must lis-
ten to their users and employees.
         I reflected on all this in light of the many CIO-related con-
versations I've had over the years—with both very traditional



                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

and future-thinking leaders—and I've developed six key princi-
ples for today's successful "transparent" CIOs.

Six principles for successful digital-era CIOs
      1. Get out of the IT trenches: Make sure you're meet-
ing with the line of business (including marketing and sales) and
really partnering with the business. As one security expert re-
cent asked a room full of CIOs, "When was the last time you
went on a walkabout and asked employees what they need?"
What a concept! More importantly, engage with your user com-
munity. Meet with the users and customers of the solutions you
are delivering. If you're part of a university, then talk to staff,
professors, and students.
      2. Walk around the IT trenches: Don't become so fo-
cused on managing "up" to the CEO that you forget to be visible
to your IT teams. Take time to listen and walk around. Recog-
nize the developers and Ops guys taking risks and coming up
with new ideas. Empower them to solve tough problems and
make decisions when they see something is wrong. (How many
times has someone in IT seen the warning signs of a breach, but
didn't feel the authority to actually say or do something?) En-
courage honesty and openness in your team meetings; create a
trusting environment in which people can speak the truth. This
may sound obvious, but many IT teams I know are afraid to tell
their CIO how bad things really are.
      3. Share best practices with peers and the world: The
best CIOs don't believe their success is some sort of proprietary
IP, something to keep to themselves. If they have figured out
better security policies, they share them not just with their
teams but with their peers and the world. This is why I love see -
ing CIOs out speaking at conferences, where they openly share

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

tough lessons and successes with others. For the most part, we
are all trying to figure out the same challenges. Someone I know
who does this very well is Jonathan Feldman. By day, Jonathan is
CIO for the City of Nashville. But Jonathan is also an active
speaker, blogger, and social media participant. He is not only a
great CIO, but an amazing evangelist for technology and the city
of Nashville.
      4. Use open source intelligence and tools to drive in-
novation: As CIOs know all too well, this digital era has brought
only more intense cybersecurity threats and crime. According to
security consulting firm Fortalice, someone discovers a new mal-
ways deviant every 90 seconds, and, on average, it takes
organizations 205 days to discover breaches. Open source tools,
especially those that provide predictive and real-time intelli-
gence or analytics, can help. Of course, you need to actually pay
attention and do something with that information.
      5. Innovate and fail fast: This new breed of CIOs is not
afraid of failing. They want to see their teams pushing the limits
and innovating and trying new things. That automatically will
end up with some failures. So the key is failing fast, then figur-
ing out what went wrong and incrementally improving. That's
agile, baby! As I heard at a recent Gartner conference, "Cyber
crime is innovating and using agile development—so why can't
we?" Good question.
      6. Share your plans: Dr. Carver has his strategic plan31
online for the world to see. I love this (even if it is dated 2011-
2013, the intentions are right!). His advice to vendors: Don't
even attempt to talk to me if you haven't read my plan and taken
time to figure out how you are relevant or can help. Just think
how much time everyone would save if your suppliers and ven-


                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

dors knew what your plans and priorities were, and you part-
nered with them to address your key goals. And, as Dr. Carver
noted, if the vendor doesn't take time to read them, then you
quickly narrow down your vendor list.
      Strong communication skills compliment all these princi-
ples. It's hard to be transparent and open if you aren't
communicating well. As Forbes contributor Peter High 32 says in
his report of the top 20 most social CIOs of 2015 33, it (communi-
cation) is not a historical strength of CIOs but is now a key
      High noted that CIOs "must be supreme networkers, col-
laborating with their colleagues in IT, their colleagues outside of
it, establishing partnerships with vendors that will generate new
value for the enterprise, and increasingly engaging customers,
who are much more tech savvy today no matter the industry."
      By being "out there," CIOs enhance their recruiting abili-
ties. In this highly-competitive IT market, getting talented
admins, devs, ops managers, and analysts is challenging (to say
the least), as you're competing with the Googles and Amazons of
the world. But when your team sees you "out there" promoting
the work they are doing, and sees you in the halls and cubes,
they will feel more involved and appreciated, have higher job
satisfaction, and refer others to your organization.
      Much research has shown that millennials care much
more about job satisfaction and "feeling good" about where they
work than the level of pay they receive, so CIOs (and every exec-
utive) can use transparency, and especially social media, to
attract the next generation of IT workers.



                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      As we all evaluate what must evolve in this digital era,
these principles are good places to start—not only for CIOs, but
all leaders wanting to embrace a more open organization.

Margaret Dawson is a 20-year tech industry veteran and a fre-
quent author and speaker on topics like cloud computing, big
data, open source, women in tech, and the intersection of busi-
ness and technology. She is a proven entrepreneur and
intrapreneur, having led successful programs and teams at sev-
eral startups and Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon,
Microsoft and HP.

Part 2: New Habits

6 steps to running the perfect 30-minute
Jimmy Sjölund

A      few weeks ago, I read Jim Whitehurst's call to ban the
      one-hour meeting34 in the Time article "25 Daily Habits
That Will Make You More Successful35". Jim recommended mak-
ing 30 minutes the default meeting length.
      I made this change myself last summer, when I saw my
calendar filling up with more meetings than I could possibly at-
tend. I host (and am invited to) many meetings, most of which
are booked for one hour (or longer). So I began to observe what
I could do to ease my busy schedule.
      I immediately noticed that no one planned meetings for
less than one full hour. On top of that, these meetings included
so many people, and I reflected on whether everyone present re-
ally needed to attend (but that's another story). The third insight
was this: a meeting most often lasts for the entire time it's
booked, no matter what. It's a variant of Parkinson's law 36: a
meeting expands so as to fill the time available/scheduled.
      So I started trying to run my own meetings in 30 minutes
or less. But strong cultural norms often govern meetings, and




                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

one of those norms is the hour-long default, which people book
"just in case." I also noticed another odd tendency: People arriv-
ing at meetings on time, then immediately leaving the room to
grab coffee. Add about five or 10 minutes of pre-business small
talk when they return, and you already have too little time to
tackle the meeting's entire agenda.
      After several months of pushing for 30-minute meetings,
however, I've come to believe they truly can be done. Here are a
few suggestions for reclaiming some of your precious time.

Prep your tech
      If you are hosting the meeting, ensure the technology you
need is working before the meeting starts. That might be hard if
you don't get access to the meeting room until the very last
minute, or if your previous meeting ends just as another begins.
But too many meetings have started with another five or ten
minutes of struggling with a projector and audio/video confer-
encing equipment.

Trim the guest list
      Running short meetings is much easier with fewer partici-
pants. Meetings of two or three people are much easier to keep
focused and on-time than they would be if eight people were in
the room. More people might mean more brains and knowledge,
but it also means each discussion can take longer if everyone
speaks up.

Appoint a referee
      We've all been there: the meeting that never ends. Just
when you thought the meeting would end, someone repeats
something that's already been said, and the same discussion
starts over again, going in circles. I recommend appointing

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

someone to help the meeting stay on track, someone with the
courage to stop another round of banter unless some new, inter-
esting insight will emerge.
      People fear ending meetings after just a short time. They
think, "What have we missed? Did we really discuss the topic
thoroughly enough to be able to make the right decision?" My
tip here is to actually end the meeting, and if you or other par-
ticipants later feel a need for additional discussion, then
schedule a new, 30-minute, meeting for it.
      For some personalities and topics, having several short
sessions is actually better than one long session. This way, you
get to process the discussion on your own—and maybe generate
new insights or issues to raise in the next session, or come to
terms with the conclusion at which the group arrived, helping
you move on.

Keep it simple
      A short agenda is, of course, easier to complete than a
long one. Always monitor the desire to break free of the agenda;
make note of topics that seem to drain the meeting's time or en-
ergy, and break them into a new session at another time. To help
keep meetings short, I recommend holding standing meetings
(no chairs allowed!). In my workplace, though, this can be diffi-
cult; all meeting rooms have chairs, and people tend to sit (or
slump) if they're available.

Skip the presentations
      If possible, distribute information before the meeting and
ask everyone to read and process that material in advance. This
makes meetings about discussion rather than presentations. I've
even seen people record presentations beforehand, then distrib-
ute that presentation to the participants before they arrive

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

(instead of simply sending out the slides or other documents). I
haven't tried this yet, but from what I've read, it seems like
something I will.

Remember why you're there
      The meeting's purpose will influence its time limit, too. A
weekly status report meeting in front of a Kanban board 37, for
example, is easier to run in 15-30 minutes than a monthly meet-
ing including a presentation would be. In fact, many agile
methods suggest a daily standup meeting that lasts no longer
than 15 minutes (but you might just find it harder to book peo-
ple in weekly 15-minutes meetings than in single monthly one-
hour meetings).
      Much of what I've discussed here pertains to common-
place meeting habits, rules, customs, and behavior—but that's
exactly what I'm trying to help you expose and change. Running
shorter meetings is hard. People accustomed to hour-long meet-
ings will probably find 30-minute sessions stressful at first. But
as more people notice the benefits of shorter meetings, they'll
become easier. Changing a culture is always difficult, and you
won't do it over night. But hang in there and start reclaiming
the hours in your day—one meeting at a time.

Jimmy Sjölund is a senior IT service manager and innovation
coach at Telia Company. He's an open source evangelist working
in organization development and exploring agile and lean work-
flows. He's also a visualization enthusiast.


How to interview for culture fit
Sam Knuth

"H         ow do you get people to . . . get it?" That question
           came from Jane, someone I was talking to at a recent
networking event. The theme of the event was "new forms of
leadership," and, more specifically, what "being a boss" means in
today's business climate. Jane was explaining that her organiza-
tion is an "open" organization, where the hierarchy is secondary
to the merit of ideas—no matter where they came from.
      But Jane told me she struggled to hire people who not
only understand this but are also excited about it (as opposed to
people terrified by the prospect of a culture in which everyone
has an opinion about your work and is not shy about sharing it).
Apparently, Jane's organization had recently hired a few people
who, ultimately, hadn't worked out.
      The problem, Jane told me, was something that's critical
in open organizations: "cultural fit." And the more Jane and I
talked, the more I realized how important designing job inter-
views to specifically address this "fit" has become today.

It's not for everybody
      Hearing Jane's conundrum made me think of Bill.
      I remember Bill vaguely from my early days at Red Hat.
When I'd bumped into him in the hall and introduced myself, I'd
learned it was Bill's first week on the job as a partner relation-
ship manager. He'd just left a similar role at a major enterprise

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

hardware company. Bill looked like what I would call a tradi-
tional business person; he was wearing a suit and making copies
at the Xerox machine (two things I didn't see many people do at
Red Hat in those days). He looked slightly uncomfortable, but I
didn't think too much of it. A week later, I heard he'd quit—went
back to the giant enterprise hardware company.
      "Ran for the hills," someone said.
      "I think we scared him off," said someone else.
      We laughed, acknowledging that Red Hat "wasn't for ev-
erybody," or could seem "a little crazy" at times.
      But for Bill—and Bill's manager—I'm sure the sudden de-
parture was no joke. Anyone who's hired someone who didn't
work out knows what an expensive, emotional, and time-con-
suming mistake that can be for everyone involved.
      I asked Jane (who had just "separated" from an employee
who, like Bill, didn't "fit" with her organization) how she ex-
plained her company's culture to candidates.
      Did she explain what the culture was like, especially the
part about the diminished importance of hierarchy? Did she
make sure candidates knew about the organization's emphasis
on openness and sharing?
      She told me she did.
      But did she ask her candidates questions designed to de-
termine whether they were comfortable with this idea, or had
been exposed to it in the past?
      Well, sort of, she said.
      Did she give detailed examples of what this looks like in
action, by telling real stories from her own experience?
      No, she said. She hadn't done that.

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Moving culture to the foreground
      Jane isn't alone. Sometimes, interviewers don't sufficiently
stress the role of culture (and "cultural fit") when they're hiring.
To avoid this, I ask a specific question during interviews in order
to test a candidate's cultural fit for an open organization:
      "How would you describe the culture at your current com-
      As I listen to the response, I'm searching for a few things:
Does this person know what I mean by "company culture"? How
much do they pay attention to it? How important do they think it
is? Do they reveal how they feel about it as they describe it?
      To follow up, I ask (directly) what the candidate likes and
doesn't like about that culture. I might also ask the person to
share a story from the first few months on a job as a way of de-
termining whether the candidate found adapting to the culture
of their current company difficult. The way people describe chal-
lenges with a culture reveals a lot about their preferences and
relative comfort zones.
      Red Hat has formalized the process of hiring for cultural
fit. Our People team designed a hiring framework called "Right
for Red Hat," and it explains everything a hiring team needs in
order to evaluate candidates' "fit" for our organization—both in
terms of Red Hat business goals and Red Hat cultural attributes.
The framework details how to structure an interview team, what
kind of questions to ask, and how to evaluate answers. In the
spirit of transparency, we present the framework to prospective
candidates via our job portal. The interview isn't just about us
evaluating the candidate. It's also about them evaluating us: are
we right for them?

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Getting it (right)
       Our questions are straightforward. Some concern specific
technical or domain knowledge. Others we've designed to gauge
problem solving, strategic thinking, and leadership qualities. We
don't ask "brain teasers," riddles, or questions that test a per-
son's general knowledge. We want to hear specific stories that
emerge from past experience; we want to learn how candidates
approach different situations, how they react to circumstances,
and how they learn from successes and failures.
       By listening to the way someone tells a story about an ex-
perience they've had, we're listening for clues about their
preferences and working style. Does it sound like the candidate
defaults to making decisions in a transparent, consultative way?
Or does it sound like this person prefers a more traditional, top-
down, decision-making approach? Does the candidate seem
comfortable with opening work to scrutiny from anyone who's
interested? Do they tend to share their work sooner than later
and seek out feedback? Or do their stories indicate that sharing
work in progress might be uncomfortable or threatening?
       Thinking back to Jane, a manager looking to hire candi-
dates comfortable in an open environment, and Bill, the short-
term Red Hat associate who didn't understand how to work
within our culture, I've come to realize that the most important
element of any open organization interview is honesty and trans-
parency—on both sides of the hiring process.
       If you're a hiring manager, you should offer candidates
concrete and specific stories that illustrate what your working
environment is really like (and offer as many as you can). If
you're a candidate, you should think about what you really pre-
fer,   and   in   what   kind   of   circumstances         you   feel   most
comfortable. And both of you should be approaching the entire
process with the notion of "cultural fit" firmly in mind—because

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

for some people, the idea of working in an open organization
might be more appealing than the reality of doing so.

At Red Hat, Sam Knuth leads the Customer Content Services
team, whose goal is to provide customers with the insights they
need to be successful with open source technologies in the en-

When empowering employee decision-
making, intent is everything
Ron McFarland

I   n Japanese business discussions, one term appears again
    and again: "gemba." Over many years living and working for
Japanese companies, I've probably heard the phrase "gemba de
kimeru" a million times. Basically, it means that issues must be
solved and decided on the front-line, where the problems and/or
opportunities are. Popular thinking holds that people can work
with their peers to solve problems. In Japan, however, problems
with this thinking can develop.
      Here, top managers often don't want to "stick out." They
don't want to assume too much responsibility. So they pass deci-
sion-making "down" to front-line people, essentially removing
themselves from the decision-making picture. They don't grant
front-line employees decision-making power in order to em-
power them. They do it to avoid responsibility for failures.
      As Jim Whitehurst says in The Open Organization, grant-
ing front-line employees more autonomy is a way of driving
innovation—not avoiding culpability. Jim describes the ways
Western managers struggle with the issue of autonomy (they
fear letting their staff make decisions, as they think that by do -
ing so they'll lose organizational power), but they miss this
critical intercultural difference. (Interestingly, if managers stay
involved in supporting roles and believe that front-line people

                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

can make decisions on their own, they can actually become
more powerful. But that's another article.)
        Managers should stay involved in critical decision-making,
even as they grant their front-line employees a bigger voice in
decisions. But their role needs to change. As Whitehurst says in
The Open Organization, they need to facilitate, not delegate.
That's a critical distinction that my time in Japan has taught me.
        It's also shown me one source of this problem—as well as
a few paths to fixing it.

In need of meritocracy
        When managers ask their staff to make decisions, then di-
vest completely from the decision-making process, they can
actually reveal their own weaknesses. I've seen engineers trans-
ferred to high level, personnel-related department positions, for
example. These transfers were not based on ability or experi-
ence, but simply on title and the number of years of experience
they had in the company. Promoted candidates unfortunately
tend to lack managerial skills and sensibilities (after all, they
were trained as engineers). So to make sure the department is
functional, these newly-minted managers have to rely heavily on
their staff. We in the department were shocked by this, and
prayed that incoming managers wouldn't weaken our depart-
ments too greatly.
        Interestingly, however, I've seen some success in this un-
comfortable working environment. Quite simply, the manager
announced he didn't feel he was fully qualified for the position,
and that he would need all the staff's support to be successful,
particularly from those who have been in the department for
many years. Admitting one's limits actually helps build engage-

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Peer projects can begin at parties
      Japanese company parties always feature an emcee, who
announces the start of the party. Imagine a party to welcome the
unqualified boss I mentioned above. Typically, people are sitting
around a large table, and initially there is only one discussion
going on (one the emcee controls). The emcee welcomes every-
one and asks someone to give a toast ("kanpai") to begin the
boss's welcome party. From that point on, people start eating
and drinking. Then the emcee asks everyone to introduce them-
selves, both to the whole group and to the boss, and to mention
some of the things they're working on. After all participants
have introduced themselves, the new boss speaks.
      In my experience, the unsuccessful inexperienced bosses
announce how they'd like to improve the department. The best
unqualified managers simply present their career highlights,
then mention that they're looking forward to getting to know
and working with everyone. When general conversation re-
sumes, the new manager actually moves around the room,
pouring beer in each associate's glass, offering an individual
greeting. At that time, the manager asks about each member's
most urgent concerns with the intent of finding a way to gen-
uinely understand them. Armed with what they've learned at
these parties, these inexperienced (but smart) managers begin
finding ways they can be helpful. Rather than just announce a
plan to make changes, they spend time trying to understand
what their employees need to have changed.
      With the right introductions, questioning, and ideation,
critical peer projects can begin during those parties, whether
through the boss's introductions or close colleagues just kicking
ideas around. These type of parties are not just for new employ-
ees (or new bosses). Many Japanese companies have these
parties with subsidiaries, vendors, and customers with the same

                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

goal. They really generate front-line projects to explore partner-
ships as well.

Meetings in the bars at night
         But occasionally official company parties are not the best
environments for speaking freely and openly, particularly re-
garding uncomfortable issues. On some delicate subjects, I have
been more successful holding peer-to-peer, open discussions af-
ter those parties.
         I ask a few attendees to grab a beer or two at a yakitori
restaurant after the party. The people I select for these meetings
usually demonstrate the desire to make improvements (as op-
posed to those wanting to maintain the status quo). I also select
people that take pride in their work, will be accountable for per-
formance, and have proven they've got the skills to introduce
important changes. With that environment and small group size,
those discussions have been very successful for me, and I think
that environment is the best venue for creative open discussions
throughout Japan.

Finding a balance
         Whether you're putting together peers at a formal busi-
ness meeting, at an official boss's welcome party, or in a bar, I
can't stress enough the importance of balancing the four criteria
Whitehurst explains in The Open Organization:
    1.    Encouraging members to speak freely and honestly
    2.    Encouraging members be courageous enough to be dif-
    3.    Selecting members committed to achievement
    4.    Selecting members with the willingness to be account-
          able for whatever is decided.

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      This is how to catalyze front-line engagement—by staying
involved in decision-making, not by skirting it.

Ron McFarland has been working in Japan for 40 years, and he's
spent more than 30 of them in international sales, sales man-
agement training, and expanding sales worldwide. He's worked
in or been to more than 80 countries. Over the past 14 years,
Ron has established distributors in the United States and
throughout Europe for a Tokyo-headquartered, Japanese hard-
ware cutting tool manufacturer.

7 characteristics of open leaders
Jackie Yeaney

"I      'm glad I'm at the end of my career," a weary-sounding
        CIO confided in me on a recent trip to India. "I just don't
think I can adapt as fast as today's market needs me to."
      The fact that a long-time, successful leader would say this
to me was—to be perfectly honest—a shock. But I empathized.
We all realize that workforce dynamics are changing. Digital dis-
ruption is changing the nature of business, contemporary
workers are demanding more from their organizations, and what
it means to be a leader is shifting significantly 38 as a result. But
this candid admission from a CIO standing right in front of me
(someone running all of IT in APAC for a global company) made
all those trends much more concrete, much more real, and much
more urgent.
      There's no doubt about it: The nature of "effective" leader-
ship is changing faster than any single person can comprehend.
"Top-down," "directive-driven" leadership styles are actually los-
ing their effectiveness in workplaces where hierarchies are no
longer the norm, where succeeding now requires more than
business acumen. And for marketers especially (particularly


                       The Open Organization Leaders Manual

those of us in B2B marketing), upheaval is becoming common-
        This is a world that calls for leaders to become—in a word

Open characteristics, open behaviors
        "Open" is becoming a bit of a buzzword40 today, but, to me,
it means something very specific in the context of leadership.
I've always liked the way Charlene Li describes open leadership
in her book on the subject41. To Li, "open leadership" means
"having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in
control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish
        It's a powerful definition, one that has become even more
powerful to me the longer I ponder its implications. To me, you
are an open leader if you embody five key characteristics:
    •      Authentic
    •      Accessible
    •      Trusting
    •      Risk-taking
    •      Vulnerable
But these are just characteristics. They don't mean much until
they manifest themselves in everyday habits and practices—until
they influence the way other people around you behave. I be-
lieve these characteristics of open leaders typically translate
into the following demonstrable behaviors:




                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      A sense of purpose. Traditional leaders are task-focused.
They typically maintain control by dividing people, by drawing
clear boundaries around people's responsibilities and job de-
scriptions, then ensuring everyone is doing precisely what he or
she has been "assigned." Open leaders are purpose-focused.
They lead not by doling out assignments, but by acting as trans-
lators of an organization's mission, inspiring their teams by
helping them understand how the work they're doing fits into a
broader picture of success. When their teams innovate and de-
velop winning solutions they hadn't considered, they advocate
for those solutions.
      Approachability. While more traditional leaders tend to
lead by cultivating fear (fear of disappointing one's boss, fear of
ramifications from missing that one "key metric," fear of expos-
ing oneself as inadequate in some way, etc.), open leaders
encourage their teams to open up to them about their struggles,
their difficulties, and their disagreements. They help people un-
derstand that inadequacy and fear of disappointment are
common and normal. They work with their teams to create envi-
ronments where people can be honest and forthcoming with
their questions and concerns. It's a move from leadership by
fear to leadership by patience—which is, as I've said before42,
one of the hardest lessons I've had to learn about being an open
      Humility. Traditional leaders believe they have to know
everything, that they've actually become leaders because they
have more knowledge and are smarter than anyone else around
them. But that just isn't true—and it's a dangerous way to com-
prehend the reasons a person can (or should) become a leader!
Open leaders are humble. They know enough to know exactly


                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

what they don't know, and they rely on their teams to help them
see it. They tend to offer perspectives and ideas (not hard-and-
fast answers), which they prefer emerge collaboratively, in dia-
       Empowerment. Open leaders put their teams before
themselves. Where traditional leaders issue instructions, then
listen for feedback about people's successes or failures carrying
out those instructions, open leaders listen first. They treat their
teams as subject matter experts, and they do their best to en-
able their teams based on what they're hearing from them. Their
first question is not: "How can I get these people to do what I
need them to do?" but rather "How can I help these people do
what they're showing me is most important?"
       Transparency. Open leaders are transparent. This means
they are clear in their intentions and motivations, and disclose
as much as they (legally and ethically) can about the conditions
that lead to a particular decision. Closely related to trans-
parency, then, is the notion of authenticity. Traditional leaders
often allow themselves to make unreasonable demands of their
teams—"unreasonable" precisely because they don't make the
same demands of themselves. Open leaders practice what they
ask of others. They don't dictate. They model. What their teams
see in them is exactly who they are—and who they want their
teams to emulate.
       Advocacy. Open leaders are tireless advocates for their
teams. While traditional leaders might intensely scrutinize every
detail (at every minute!), open leaders give their teams the lati-
tude to make the decisions and form the solutions they're best
suited to produce. I've heard others describe this as a "long
leash" approach to leadership, but that's not quite right. That
"leash" is more like a lifeline or umbilical cord: a connection we
maintain with members of our teams not so we can continually

                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

control them, but so we can guide them, nourish them, and fight
for them.
         Trust and respect. This is perhaps the most important
pair of behaviors open leaders demonstrate. Where traditional
leaders might try to ignore their teams' personhood by asking
them not to take things personally, to check their emotions at
the door, and to expect the same from one another, open leaders
recognize that work is always personal—especially if they're al-
ready committed to connecting people's deeply individual
passions with their organization's overall missions. Open leaders
celebrate their teams' humanity. Put even more simply: Open
leaders respect people enough to know that it's never "just busi-

To win, be open
         The war for top talent is real, and it's only intensifying.
Succeeding in that war will require more than workplace
"perks" like on-site gyms and lots of snacks. It will require a new
brand of leadership, one tuned into the needs and desires of to-
day's workforce. Today's workers are looking for leaders that
are accessible—people who invest in them, include them in the
effort to solve tough problems, and are willing to help them
chart their career paths. You won't be able to please (and retain)
everybody, but for as long as people have chosen to be part of
your team, you want them not only doing their best work but
also feeling nurtured, recognized, and appreciated.
         And that means much more openness—not just for lead-
ers, but for everyone.

Jackie Yeaney is Chief Marketing Officer at Ellucian.

An open process for discovering your
core values
Beth Anderson

W       hen I joined The Hill Center in Durham, North Carolina,
        as Executive Director nearly two years ago, I realized
immediately that I had joined a wonderful, successful, highly
conventional education organization. Hill has been transforming
students with learning differences into confident, independent
learners for nearly 40 years, and many of the faculty and staff
(including the outgoing Executive Director) had been at Hill for
most of that time. Hill has a strong culture, and its faculty and
staff all consistently deliver high-quality programs for students
and teachers alike—all despite evident tensions, misunderstand-
ings, and mistrust between senior administration, faculty, and
staff as well as across different programs and teams in this
rigidly siloed, hierarchical organization.
      From the start, I publicly stated I wanted to address is-
sues of culture, trust, and transparency, in part by establishing
organizational core values. But I didn't know how or when to do
so. And, candidly, I was scared. I knew I couldn't come into Hill
and impose my own core values, yet I was petrified of what
might emerge if I opened the value-creation process to everyone
—and I didn't how I would respond if I simply didn't believe in,
like, or want to adhere to what did.

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      Hill did have core values posted on its website and in-
cluded in its strategic plan, but they just didn't resonate with
me, and hardly anyone within the organization could articulate
them. I saw both an opportunity and a challenge. Despite my
public proclamation, however, I decided to wait.

The time comes
      Fast forward 18 months.
      I'd read The Open Organization (and many other articles
along the way) as I tried to navigate the path forward, discover
my authentic leadership and management style within this (still
very foreign) context, and lead change in a non-threatening
manner. I'd adopted and promoted "All Hill" language and
events to help break down silos. We'd engaged in an All Hill
"strategic visioning" process that was faculty/staff-centric,
rather than being led by the board, and that resulted in some
new relationships, dialogue, and common language. We had
hired, retired, or exited many faculty and staff, resulting in an
organization that was suddenly fairly evenly split—almost ex-
actly one third newer personnel, one third in the three-to-ten-
year range, and one third employees who had been at the school
more than a decade (half for more than 20 years). And we were
still very, very far from being an "open organization."
      So I decided it was time to embark on a core values
process, and I decided to do it as collaboratively, openly, and or-
ganically as felt possible. I had no idea where it would lead or
what would result. And I was still scared.
      Why did I decide suddenly it was time? First, we were los-
ing veterans to retirement each year, and I didn't want to lose
their perspectives on what made Hill successful and unique—
and what had made them dedicate decades of their lives to Hill.
Moreover, as we welcomed the next generation of faculty and

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

staff, we needed to be able to recruit and retain great people,
and clearly communicate and deliver on "Why Hill?"
      By soliciting ideas and feedback from staff, I could honor
what we'd done well in the past while preparing for future trans-
formations. Second, I knew teachers at The Hill Center often
spoke positively about feeling autonomous and enabled in their
classrooms, and I wanted to recreate that feeling of empower-
ment and involvement at an organizational level. Finally, I
recognized that a sense of ownership of shared values could fos-
ter parity across staff members with varying levels of experience
and authority.
      When it comes to adhering to and executing on our core
values, nobody is held to a higher or lower standard; consis-
tency of values prevents favoritism or bias in decision making.
Anyone should be able to ground a conversation with anyone
else—regardless of position, team, or program—in shared core
values without making that conversation personal. In short, by
asking All Hill to collaborate on "discovering our core values,"
and then making the final product explicit and alive, I hoped to
reinforce the greatest strengths in the pre-existing culture of
The Hill Center while continuing the move towards a more open,
transparent, and trustful organization.
      We just needed to think about how we'd actually do it.

Discovering our core values
      Along with Michelle Orvis, Hill's Chief of Staff, I began
reading articles and watching videos related to open sourcing
core values, and we informally interviewed personnel from other
organizations to solicit their advice. In the end, we wanted a hy-
brid approach: something open and inclusive but not completely
democratic or consensus-driven. We also did not want the
process to be too time-consuming for our already busy faculty

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

and staff. We wanted to conduct it over several months, but not
forever, and we wanted to accept input in a variety of forums.
      After announcing the process and sharing multimedia ex-
amples from other organizations over email, we had an optional
"lunch 'n learn" kick-off (I had learned early on that the only
possible window for bringing All Hill together was lunchtime,
between morning and afternoon classes!). I provided some con-
text, laid out two guiding principles for our core values—"clear
and simple" and "truly authentic"—and folks worked individu-
ally, in pairs, and in small groups to describe the "essence" of
Hill in words and phrases. We captured the words and phrases,
then shared and discussed them via email communications,
smaller informal lunches, and preliminary synthesis and discus-
sion at a half-day leadership team retreat. During this process,
we also added two more guiding principles: "Bias towards ac-
tion" and "All Hill—knit together entire organization."
      Following one of the informal lunch discussions, I received
an email from Kate Behrenshausen, one of The Hill Center's
newest teachers. The note surprised me, given that Kate had
opted out of the kick-off meeting at the beginning of the process.
Suddenly, she was ready not only to participate in the values-
writing process, but also to engage further by collaborating on
additional writing (like this article for!).
      How had Kate made the jump from disinterested to en-
gaged, and what could I learn from this?
      Initially, Kate admitted, she did not believe the core values
process would apply to her role at Hill; in fact, she admitted, she
wasn't even totally sure what "core values" meant. To her, they
sounded like sterile, superficial management buzzwords.
      But later, when I asked Kate and her coworkers to submit
five words or phrases that described the "essence" of Hill, she
was intrigued. She'd received a concrete method for providing

                       The Open Organization Leaders Manual

feedback, and she appreciated the implication that her opinions
mattered. In fact, she said, that feeling of appreciation had
guided her decision to join Hill in the first place. During an early
interview, Head of School Bryan Brander had reassured her that
Hill gives its teachers the freedom to do what is best for student
learning. Bryan's words inspired her—especially after several
years in the public school system, where decisions seemed to
come from far-off offices of people who did not know her stu -
dents and would never see her classroom. In her estimation, the
follow-up core values activity had reinforced those feelings of re-
assurance, encouragement, and inclusivity.

All (Hill) in
           I recently shared draft core values with All Hill at one of
our bi-monthly, post-board meeting lunches. The draft was an
updated version of what our leadership team synthesized from
the "words" activity at the kick-off lunch, then modified to reflect
the other feedback I had been collecting in formal and informal
ways. We've posted them on the wall in the mailroom with mark-
ers, post-its, and dots in hopes that folks will share their
reactions, ideas, questions, concerns. We'll go from there, work-
ing towards unveiling "new" core values at our August Back-to-
School kick off.
           What currently hangs on the wall are not the core values
I'd have written myself (though many of my original themes do
come through). Some of them raise questions (even concerns).
And yet, on the whole, I feel better about them at this point than
I might have expected, and I think they will spur more needed
dialogue as we progress. I've learned three valuable lessons so
       •    Letting go can be both scary and liberating. While I cer-
            tainly haven't let go completely, I haven't "backwards

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

        planned" or tried to over-engineer it, and I genuinely
        have listened and sought out the input of everyone. And
        it's been fun, engaging, stimulating, and affirming of the
        many great people, ideas and things happening every
        day at Hill—much less work for me than it could have
        otherwise been, too!
   •    "Authenticity" is a simple but challenging guiding princi-
        ple, for both individuals and organizations. But to me it
        seems central to being an "open" leader and organiza-
        tion. What seems authentic to some may not to all; what
        is authentic in certain relationships or circumstances
        may not manifest itself in others. And what if there are
        things about "who we are" as an organization that we
        need to change in order to thrive and survive, or about
        who we think we are supposed to be that we need to ac-
        tually embrace more fully rather than let go? I think we
        may need to have some hard conversations about au-
        thenticity as a part of this process.
   •    Nothing is better than actually sitting down and engag-
        ing in dialogue with different people, taking the time to
        talk less and listen more, and then having the discipline
        to capture and translate that dialogue into something
        that is made explicit and shared. It takes time. It takes
        planning. It takes effort. But it is so much better than
        just thinking about things or wishing them to be differ-
        ent or true.
       I still have a long way to go and grow as a leader at Hill.
And we still have a long way to go and grow as an organization.
But the journey is one worth taking. And I am determined to en-
joy and learn from the ride. Hopefully, many others feel the
same—and will join Kate and me along the way.

                 The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Beth Anderson is the executive director of The Hill Center in
Durham, North Carolina. The Hill Center is a private-public, K-
12 model that serves students who are struggling academically
—especially those with learning differences and attention chal-
lenges—and their teachers.

An open leadership development system
DeLisa Alexander

A     t Red Hat, we have a saying: Not everyone is a people
      manager, but everyone is expected to be a leader. For
many people, that requires a profound mindset shift in how to
think about leaders. Yet in some ways, it's what we all intuitively
know about how organizations really work. As Red Hat CEO Jim
Whitehurst has pointed out, in any organization, you have the
thermometers—people who reflect the organizational "tempera-
ture" and sentiment and direction—and then you have the
thermostats—people who set those things for the organization.
      Leadership is about who you influence and how you make
an impact.
      This is the story of how we built a leadership development
system at Red Hat to enable our open organization's growth
while sustaining the best parts of our unique culture.

Developing open leaders
      In an open organization, you can't just buy leadership de-
velopment training "off the shelf" and expect it to resonate with
people—or to reflect and reinforce your unique culture. But you
also probably won't have the capacity and resources to build a
great leadership development system entirely from scratch.
      Early on in our journey at Red Hat, our leadership devel-
opment efforts focused on understanding our own philosophy
and approach for leadership development, then taking a bit of

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

an open source approach: sifting through the what people had
created for conventional organizations, then configuring those
ideas in a way that made them feasible for an open organization.
      Looking back, I can also see we spent a lot of energy look-
ing for ways to plug specific capability gaps.
      Many of our people managers were individuals—engineers
and other subject matter experts—who stepped into manage-
ment roles because that's what our organization needed. Yet the
reality was, many had little experience leading a team or group.
So we had some big gaps in basic management skills.
      We also had gaps—not just among managers but also
among individual contributors—when it came to navigating
tough conversations with respect. In a company where passion
runs high and people love to engage in open and heated debate,
making your voice heard without shouting others down wasn't
always easy.
      We couldn't find any end-to-end leadership development
systems that would help train people for leading in a culture
that favors flatness and meritocracy over hierarchy and senior-
ity. And while we could build some of those things ourselves, we
couldn't build everything fast enough to meet our growing orga-
nization's needs.
      So when we saw a need for improved goal setting, we in-
troduced some of the best offerings available—like Closing the
Execution Gap and the concept of SMART goals (i.e. specific,
measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). To make
these work for Red Hat, we configured them to pull through
themes from our own culture that could be used in tandem to
make the concepts resonate and become even more powerful.
      In a culture that values meritocracy, being able to influ-
ence others is critical. Yet the passionate open communication
and debate that we love at Red Hat sometimes created hard

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

feelings between individuals or teams. We introduced Crucial
Conversations to help everyone navigate those heated and im-
passioned topics, and also to help them recognize that those
kinds of conversations provide the greatest opportunity for influ-
        After building that foundation with Crucial Conversations,
we introduced Influencer Training to help entire teams and or-
ganizations communicate and gain traction for their ideas
across boundaries.
        We also found a lot of value in Marcus Buckingham's
strengths-based approach to leadership development, rather
than the conventional models that encouraged people to spend
their energy shoring up weaknesses.
        Early on, we made a decision to make our leadership of-
ferings available to individual contributors as well as managers,
because we saw that these skills were important for everyone in
an open organization.
        Looking back, I can see that this gave us the added bene-
fit of developing a shared understanding and language for
talking about leadership throughout our organization. It helped
us build and sustain a culture where leadership is expected at
all levels and in any role.
        At the same time, training was only part of the solution.
We also began developing processes that would help entire de-
partments develop important organizational capabilities, such as
talent assessment and succession planning.
        Piece by piece, our open leadership system was beginning
to take shape.

Stages of open leadership
        With our mantra of "Not everyone is a manager, but every-
one is expected to be a leader" in mind, we started observing

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

that leadership has different stages, based on influence and im-
        Individual Leadership. Leadership begins with each in-
dividual. An individual is a leader when they enrich an
organization's culture and others see them as an influential
voice on a particular topic. Individual leadership can be an in-
credibly powerful force in an open organization.
        Team Leadership. At some point, every individual leader
begins to reach the limits of how they can influence as an indi-
vidual. This brings them into the next stage: team leadership.
This when their impact becomes additive, when they learn how
to tap into, combine, and align the individual strengths of every
member of a group to bring about a shared vision.
        While this certainly happens with managers and their di-
rect reports, in an open organization, that's not exclusive to
people managers. Project and program leaders are examples of
individuals who contribute at the team leadership level. So are
members of other groups and communities—both formal and in-
formal—who      align   the    strengths      and    interests   of   their
stakeholders, collaborators, and other people.
        Organizational Leadership. The next stage of leader-
ship is what we think of as organizational leadership. It's when
an individual's impact becomes multiplied, because they com-
pound and integrate the strengths of teams (groups of people) to
create new organizational capabilities that drive important out-
        It's having the vision for where an entire organization
needs to go, the foresight to bring the right teams and leaders
together, and the ability to channel their passion and energy to-
ward a shared organizational purpose in order to deliver rapid
results together.

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      This stage of leadership is what's required of middle and
senior management in open organizations. It's also what it takes
to be an effective leader (e.g. board member, project leader,
change agent) in any opt-in community that comprises many
smaller projects or teams and spans many boundaries, e.g. an
open source community with many sub-projects.
      Enterprise Leadership. The final stage of leadership is
what we think of as enterprise. It's when an individual leader
catalyzes the passion and contributions of all the people in that
organization to form a vibrant ecosystem for open leadership
and culture. Enterprise leadership is when the impact of your
contributions is exponential, because it's magnified by the num-
ber of people you influence, and the number of people who they
influence, and so on.
      Enterprise leadership is being what Jim Whitehurst de-
scribes as "a Catalyst-in-Chief" for an organization. It's having
the intuition and influence and impeccable timing to know when
and how to bring forward important issues—and when to let
those go. It's knowing how much direction to provide, how much
context to give, and how much faith to have in your organiza-
tion's ability to find its own way forward.
      This stage of leadership is the most elusive to describe
and to reach. It's the one that "you know it when you see it." It's
what's required of executives, particularly C-level executives, in
an open organization. You will also see enterprise leadership in
visionary leaders who direct and strongly influence the efforts of
large participative communities, such as Wikipedia or Drupal.
      Based on these leadership stages, we realized that we
needed to meet every Red Hatter where they are, understand
and leverage their strengths, and stretch them to build addi-
tional leadership capabilities. At times, we would need ways to

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

accelerate their development, so they would be ready to step
into bigger roles when our organization needed them to.

The OPT model
      One of my favorite homegrown pieces of our open leader-
ship system is the OPT model, which was developed by my
colleague Jan Smith, based on her observations within Red Hat
and experience working with various leadership models. As
you'll see, it's a strengths-based approach to development:

                     Figure 1: The OPT Model

      We use the OPT model in coaching, development, and
planning at Red Hat. The idea is that when someone is doing
work that they love (their passion), and work that they are good
at (talent), and that work fills an organization's needs, they will

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

be performing at their peak. That's a task that will give them en-
ergy. It will feel rewarding and fulfilling, and they will feel that
the organization deeply values them.
      The OPT model is a tool that can be used at many differ-
ent stages of leadership. At the individual stage, it's a powerful
tool for reflecting on how you spend your time and energy, and
taking ownership of your career. At the team stage, it helps you
think about the different kinds of work that give people energy,
and create roles or responsibilities that are mutually beneficial.
It's a conversation starter that helps you—whether you're the
manager or the associate—to think not just about development
within the current role, but also about the possibilities and op-
portunities for future roles.
      It's just one of many ways that leaders in an open organi-
zation can make the most of powerful motivators like purpose
and passion.

Finding our leadership multiplier
      One alarming trend we observed when we began hiring a
number of new senior leaders from conventional organizations
inspired the creation of a key component of our open leadership
development system.
      Although we were careful to explain that things worked a
bit differently in an open organization, time and again, we saw
the same thing happening: Leaders with important skills that we
needed—people who had been highly successful in companies
where authority comes by rank rather than influence—struggled
to lead in our unique culture.
      We needed many of the skills that those leaders had. At
that stage in our company's growth, we wanted help and in-
sights from people who had experience leading a global
enterprise at the senior leadership level.

                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

        We had to find a way to bring in people from top-down,
command-and-control,        conventional       organizations   and   help
them understand how to lead in an open organization. We
needed a common language for explaining what it takes to be
successful in Red Hat's unique culture and work environment.
        Perhaps not surprisingly, we took an open source ap-
proach to the issue. We started asking questions of associates
throughout Red Hat to understand what constitutes a great
leader at any level of the company, in any role or department.
We wanted to know what differentiates great leaders at Red Hat
(or in an open organization) from great leaders at any other
        We found that, in addition to more typical leadership capa-
bilities, leading in our open organization requires the mastery of
some differentiated behaviors that we dubbed the Red Hat Mul-
    •      Connection: Building a sense of community where asso-
           ciates feel strongly connected to Red Hat
    •      Trust: Demonstrating a general belief in others' ability
           to make a contribution
    •      Transparency: Openly sharing information that contrib-
           utes to the work of others
    •      Collaboration: Engaging multiple sources to generate
           the optimal solution
    •      Meritocracy: Rewarding the best ideas, no matter
           where they come from
        We called this "the Red Hat Multiplier" because we discov-
ered that individuals who embody these behaviors are so
influential that the impact of their leadership capabilities is mul-
        The Red Hat Multiplier helps us articulate what open lead-
ership looks like at different stages of a leader's development

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

and highlight clear development areas for people who want to
become leaders—whether they want to be better managers or
more influential individual contributors. It also helps us provide
guardrails and guidance on what success as a leader looks like.
      While some people are more naturally inclined to behave
in this way than others, each of the five behaviors is a skill that
anyone can build and develop.
      Indeed, many people say that they thought they were "col-
laborative" or "transparent" before they joined our open
organization, but now, they practice those skills at a level they
could never have conceived of in a conventional organization.
      The Red Hat Multiplier competency model is available on
GitHub43 and published under a Creative Commons license, so
you can download a copy and share it with your organization.
      Our open leadership system is a work in progress, and
these are just a few of its many parts. You can learn about an-
other component, our Open Decision Framework, in another
chapter of this manual.

DeLisa Alexander serves as the executive vice president and
chief people officer of Red Hat, leading the organization respon-
sible for global human resources including Red Hat University.
During her tenure, Red Hat has grown from 1,100 to 9,000+ as-
sociates and has been recognized as one of the best places to
work in multiple publications around the globe.


11 steps to running an online community
Laura Hilliger

O      pen organizations explicitly invite participation from ex-
       ternal communities, because these organizations know
their products and programs are world class only if they include
a variety of perspectives at all phases of development. Liaising
with and assisting those communities is critical. And community
calls are my favorite method for interacting with stakeholders
both inside and outside an organization. In this article, I'll share
best practices for community calls and talk a little about how
they can spur growth.

What is a community call?
      You might think of community calls as office hours for par-
ticular themes, or as design sessions for programs. A community
call is a meeting, held online, that invites people to gather at a
specific time each week or month. They're recurring and open to
anyone who wishes to join. A community call is a tool for solving
problems, breaking out of individual silos, and finding points of
connection between different initiatives or people. Most impor-
tantly, a great call serves as a launchpad for communities.
Community calls bring people together from all over the world.
They serve as a social and cultural touchstone. It's all about con-

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

How does a community call develop leadership?
      A community call demonstrates transparency and collabo-
ration. Invite others to speak. Facilitate a conversation. Don't
give a presentation. A good community call invites people to
have ideas, speak their minds and talk about their own work.
Good leaders promote action, build partnerships, motivate, and
empower. A community call develops these skills through
thoughtful and fun facilitation. Community calls thrive on open
practices. Open planning, documentation, and open reflection
are essential components.

Running a community call

0. Commit
      To plan, execute, and run a successful community call,
you'll need to commit a bit of time and energy. In the beginning,
you'll need a day to think about and document what you hope to
achieve, and you'll need another day to do logistical setup and
promotion. If your call is successful, you'll need several hours
for each call. You will need an hour to write the agenda each
week or month, time to promote, an hour to run the call, another
hour to write a reflection, followed by more promotion. A suc-
cessful community call is a production, but as you get used to it
and as your community grows, this will become second nature.

1. Determine your community's identity
      If you're planning on running a community call, you need
an idea of the community you're trying to build. Of course, your
target audience is "everyone," but to gain traction, you need to
reach influencers first. Define what you hope to "get out" of the
call. This will focus your community. I'm currently running a

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

community call that focuses on using stories to create impact. I
focus on people who are creating impact with a specific story,
people who are interested in Greenpeace and the 7 Shifts to-
wards Open44.

2. Record the purpose of your call
      You're going to be asking people to join your community
call. How will you pitch it to them? Write a few sentences sum-
marizing what your call is about. You can use these sentences to
help you promote the call. For example:

      Our community call surfaces real world examples
      that embody the new Greenpeace Story and the 7
      shifts. We want to make this community a network
      that can engage around all things story.

      We hope to celebrate one another, identify gaps in
      knowledge, and share skills. We serve as a peer
      group for developing campaign ideas and breathe
      life into the stories we tell at Greenpeace. We want
      to build campaigns that sing, dance, dream, laugh,
      and otherwise grasp the Story and Shifts.

      People will be invited to bring what they're working
      on or need help. We hope people bring story ideas
      with the aim of improving campaigns, actions and
      engagement. We see this as a fast, loose way to col-
      laborate and innovate.


                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

3. Pick a date
        Before promoting your call, you need to schedule it!
Choose a date and a time when most folks are likely available.
Do most members of your community have day jobs? Schedule
the call for the early evening. Is your community based primarily
in Europe? Plan the call at a time convenient for Europeans.
There's no science to picking the best time. Just find a day/time
that works for most of your community members.

4. Choose your tech
        Next, select the particular technologies you'll use to
gather everyone together. I recommend using video conferenc-
ing software. You can use anything from to Zoom.
Choose something your target community is already using and
try it out. If they're all in a Google Community, try Hangouts. If
you communicate via a specific forum or mailing list, use that
list to ask people what they use for video conferences.

5. Write the agenda
        You don't want to waste people's time, so you need a plan.
If your community doesn't feel like the call is valuable, they
won't come back. They also won't spread the word, and your
community call will have Balance your agenda.
Provide enough presentation so so people have something to re-
spond to, but offer enough time for interaction, too, so people
feel invited to speak. Use a collaborative note taking device (like
etherpad) to plan your call. This is the place you can store the
logistical information (when the call is, how to connect, etc). It
also serves as a living document for note taking and collabora-

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      To help you envision what a community call might look
like, I made you a template45. Insert your own call information
and themes to talk about, and you're ready to go (don't forget to
copy and paste this into your own etherpad!)

6. Reach out to influencers
      To grow your community call, you need to find like-minded
people who are interested in the topics. They can help you
spread the word. They are also the people most likely to have
the skills necessary to collaborate or discuss "the work." For ex-
ample, the story community call is open to everyone, but I focus
promotional efforts on people who understand (or at least know)
what "story as a theory of change" means. Generate a list of in-
fluencers speaking prominently on your call's theme, then reach
out to them individually. Ask them to attend your call. The per-
sonal and specific ask is much more powerful than a mass email.
This is a critical step!

7. Promote your call
      In the two weeks leading up to your call, you'll want to
share your agenda widely. Use social media to promote your
call, send personal messages and emails to lists. Ask people to
come to your kick-off call. Involve your community members
from the beginning. Ask their opinions. Ask for input. Not sure
about how you would write an email that invites people to a
community call? No worries. Here's another template46.



                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

8. Arrive early
      Load up your agenda and connect to the video or phone
conference at least 15 minutes before everyone else is sched-
uled to join you. You can prepare your opening, make sure the
tech is working, and be ready when people start to arrive. Give
people some time to connect. I usually "officially" start the call
at about five minutes past the scheduled call time. In the mean-
time, welcome people to the call and explain how to use the
etherpad for those who are connecting.

9. Be a superstar moderator
      When you're ready to start the call, begin by welcoming
your participants and reviewing the meeting's purpose. Explain
how to use the Etherpad. Explain how the call works. Let people
know you encourage their participation! Give an overview of the
agenda and ask participants to help you take notes. During the
call, invite others to speak. If someone is getting off topic, gently
refocus the conversation. Listen. I can't stress this enough: Lis-
ten to your community. Make sure you take notes, too! When
your time is up, invite people back by informing them of the next
call. And don't forget to say "thank you!"

10. Write a reflection
      Here's where the notes come in handy. Documentation is
integral to open organizations. A community call can help you
make decisions, advance ideas, and assign tasks, but only if you
take care to document your conversation and follow up! Write a
personal reflection after each call. Just read the notes and write
down what the call experience was like for you. Write your re-
flections soon after concluding the call, so you remember what
you felt, what the conversation covered, and how people inter-

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

acted. Then, as you begin promoting your next community call,
share the new agenda as well as the reflection.
        I love community calls. I've been attending them and run-
ning them for a long time. Read about my experiences on my
blog47—or get in touch48!

Laura Hilliger is an artist, educator, writer, and technologist. Af-
ter five years at Mozilla, where she advocated for open and
helped spread web literacy, she's now an Open Organization am-
bassador at and working to help Greenpeace
become an open organization. She's all over the Web. Use your
favorite search engine to learn more about Laura and what she



Making open and inclusive decisions
Rebecca Fernandez and DeLisa Alexander

I   n a start-up organization, anticipating how a decision will
    impact the people you work with is relatively easy. If you
don't know, you just ask them, then make adjustments accord-
ingly. Open conversations like these are an intuitive and
expected practice in most start-up environments.
         Yet as an organization grows to include more and more
people, sustaining that open and inclusive culture becomes diffi-
cult. Those sorts of practices begin to fade away if you don't
deliberately work at cultivating them.
         It's a cultural change that happens gradually as the orga-
nization becomes more complex, and people often fail to notice
until those closed, siloed behaviors have become entrenched in
the organization. You see one of two reactions to this cultural
    1.    Some people accept this loss of transparency and en-
          gagement with a pragmatic shrug. They say, "Well, we're
          not a startup anymore, and we can't act like one for-
    2.    Others leave the organization and say that the culture is
          too "corporate" for their liking. They pack up their be-
          longings and their talents, and they begin anew with
          another startup.
         At Red Hat, we've struggled with the same issue over the
years, and we've seen our share of both reactions. After all, our

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

company has grown from two guys in a townhouse to more than
9,000 associates around the world.
      Fortunately, our company is strongly rooted in the open
source movement, where acting openly is the norm and the ex-
pectation. When we were a startup, many of our associates
came from open source communities, and many of our new hires
today continue to come from open source communities. That's
created, essentially, a cultural mandate: to figure out how to sus-
tain and scale what makes our company special, as we continue
to bring in newcomers from many different backgrounds.

Understanding our own best practices
      We've developed one effective tool for doing this: the
Open Decision Framework, a collection of best practices for
making decisions and leading projects at Red Hat.
      The Open Decision Framework contains the collective wis-
dom of Red Hatters, compiled into a flexible framework that
helps our decision makers and leaders seek out diverse perspec-
tives and collaborate across teams and geos, to make better
      Open source principles like transparency and collabora-
tion are the building blocks for these principles. In true open
source fashion, we've come to realize that many of the practices
originated in or were adapted from open source projects and
communities to which Red Hatters contribute.
      When you apply the practices in the Open Decision
Framework to decision-making and project leadership, you get
better ideas and a clearer understanding of the impact of your
decisions—while building trust and respect between teams.
You're able to tap into the passion and creativity of your organi-
zation—while keeping the process productive and maintaining
accountability for decision-making and execution. And you re-

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

tain much of the transparency, inclusivity, and agility that most
organizations lose as they grow—while sustaining speed of exe-
cution and delivering extraordinary results.

The power of open
      You can find the Open Decision Framework on GitHub 49,
where it's available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0 li-
cense. We chose to publish the framework on GitHub because
it's a place where many open source enthusiasts congregate—
and is a place where anyone can download a copy, remix it,
translate it into another language, make suggestions for im-
provements, track the changes that we make to the upstream
version and others make to their own "forked" versions over
time, and more50.
      We're seeing project managers and leaders download,
adapt, and use it in interesting ways within their own organiza-
tions and communities.
      At Greenpeace International, Staff Engagement Advisor
Laura Hilliger had long been an advocate for open culture and
leadership practices. She remixed the Open Decision Frame-
work and presented it to the steering committee working to
overhaul the organization's international web presence, Green-, which reaches millions of visitors each year.
      "The Open Decision Framework helped me convince them
to run the project, which includes everything from user research
to development to content, using open practices," Laura said. "It
presents the whys and hows of open in a practical way."


50 As of this writing, 61 users are watching the repository, 441 have
   starred it, and 46 have forked it.

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

      The project's stakeholders include the entire community
of Greenpeacers (more than 4,000 staff members and tens of
thousands of volunteers), the site's visitors, and potentially any-
one who is interested in seeing how Greenpeace evolves their
web presence for the future.
      Laura put some thought into the ways she'd need to adapt
words from the framework to fit her industry and organization's
lingo. For example, while an open source company like Red Hat
often uses the word "contributor" to describe members of our
projects and communities, that word has a different meaning in
the nonprofit world.
      "The Open Decision Framework helped me define how an
open method is different from the ‘regular' Greenpeace way of
working, in a short and accessible way," Laura said.
      Laura also wove a communications plan into her remixed
version of framework, to help the steering committee see how it
could be used within their project.
      Another benefit that comes from leading an open and col-
laborative process is that it increases people's engagement and
interest in your work.
      As Laura explained, "The excitement has been building
since the green light was given, and the team is promoting open
while learning how to be open. Inspiring!"

Accelerating innovation and organizational change
      Meanwhile, within Red Hat, we continue to see benefits
using the Open Decision Framework to identify and share our
own best practices across our open organization.
      Within our engineering organization, for example, Vice
President of Products and Technologies Operations Katrinka Mc-
Callum leads a team whose work regularly impacts every other
department and many teams within each. Not surprisingly, Ka-

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

trinka's team were contributors to—and early adopters of—the
Open Decision Framework.
        At the 2016 Red Hat Summit, Katrinka and Jay Ferrandini,
Red Hat's Senior Director of Worldwide DevOps, presented
"Lessons learned on the DevOps front51," where they shared
their experience with practicing open decision making.
        A few years ago, the leader of one of the Red Hat's engi-
neering development teams explained that Jay's operations team
had a problem. "We come to you, asking for a banana," the
leader explained. "And your team works within a black box, and
after a while, you deliver us a pickle."
        A pickle?
        Katrinka explained, "We were really good at working
through problems. We would spend months working on a prob-
lem, and then we'd deliver this beautiful pickle. We would
deliver it with fanfare, with prideful joy that we were solving
their problems."
        The development team would look at the pickle in surprise
and say, "Well, that's sort of what we wanted . . . except it's not
yellow. And we wanted something sweeter. And we can't peel a
        Jay and Katrinka realized that they needed to make some
fundamental changes to their team's process for and mindset
about working with other teams. They realized they could apply
open source principles—like transparency, collaboration, open
communication, and participative decision-making—to bring the
development and operations teams together and deliver better
        So the DevOps transformation and enablement team was


                         The Open Organization Leaders Manual

           Jay's team adopted a number of practices documented in
the Open Decision Framework:
       •       transparency with internal customers and other stake-
       •       customer involvement
       •       gaining feedback and adapting iterative changes
       •       building trust and respect via collaboration
           For example, the team began to make customer participa-
tion       a    requirement    for   working      on    a   project.   When   a
development team asks his team to solve a problem, Jay ex-
plained, "We'll probably say ‘yes,' but only if you give us one of
your people to sit in our meetings with us."
           Now, instead of gathering requirements and vanishing
into a "black box" for six months to build a solution, Jay's team
brings members of the development team into the process along
with those business requirements.
           "At minimum, we might need just 15 minutes a week,
where our business partners are participating in our meetings
and scrums," Jay said. "But we're finding that often, these folks
have the appetite and interest to get right in there and work on
the code with us. It's a way more fun and productive environ-
ment, and people want to come work with us."
           This open, inclusive, embedded model helps the team en-
sure, from start to finish, that they're solving their customers'
problems. In other words, it helps them consistently build and
deliver bananas, rather than pickles.
           The team started out as a service organization, essentially
"a call center," according to Jay. By practicing open decision
making, the team became known as a trusted business partner.
           Jay's team also decided early on to be transparent about
their own challenges and limitations—another best practice
found in the Open Decision Framework. This inspired other peo-

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

ple to raise their hands and volunteer to help the newly formed
team succeed.
      As Jay explained, "People came out of the woodwork with
offers to help. We went from closed to completely open, and al-
most overnight, people saw that we were human, and they
began to trust us."
      The team's open approach has helped them became a cat-
alyst for collaboration and improved decision-making across the
larger Products and Technologies organization.
      In one instance, they brought four disparate groups to-
gether, helped them let go of four different message bus
technologies, and aligned everyone's requirements onto a sin-
gle, shared message bus.
      "We had these teams using four different modes of com-
munication, you could think of it as speaking in four different
languages," Katrinka said. "Once we got everyone to standardize
on this one common infrastructure element, we saw all kinds of
benefits. Bugs were getting fixed that had never been addressed
      In essence, the Products and Technologies organization
moved from all speaking different languages within their teams
—and employing translators when they needed these teams to
work together—to speaking in a common language.
      This was a much more efficient system and freed up thou-
sands of person-days of work per year, so the teams could spend
more time on higher value-add tasks.
      None of this would have been possible without an open
and inclusive approach to making that technology decision. As
Katrinka said, "Being open and transparent is a smoother way to
      The experiences of the Products and Technologies Opera-
tions team are just a few of the sources of wisdom found within

                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

the Open Decision Framework, and the team has made improve-
ments based on other teams' contributions to it, as well.
      Katrinka said, "If we've learned anything from open
source, it's that even if you're the smartest person in the room,
you aren't smarter than the whole room. Solving problems to-
gether builds lasting partnerships that allow you to solve even
bigger problems together in the future."
      The Open Decision Framework offers insights on how to
scale that kind of open and inclusive approach.

Rebecca Fernandez is a Principal Employment Branding + Com-
munication Specialist at Red Hat. She is the program manager
and evangelist for the Open Decision Framework, a founding
member of, and an ambassador for The Open
Organization book.

DeLisa Alexander serves as the executive vice president and
chief people officer of Red Hat, leading the organization respon-
sible for global human resources including Red Hat University.
During her tenure, Red Hat has grown from 1,100 to 9,000+ as-
sociates and has been recognized as one of the best places to
work in multiple publications around the globe.

                       The Open Organization Leaders Manual

The Open Organization Definition

        Openness is becoming increasingly central to the ways
groups and teams of all sizes are working together to achieve
shared goals. And today, the most forward-thinking organiza-
tions—whatever their missions—are embracing openness as a
necessary orientation toward success. They've seen that open-
ness can lead to:
    •    Greater agility, as members are more capable of work-
         ing toward goals in unison and with shared vision;
    •    Faster innovation, as ideas from both inside and out-
         side    the      organization        receive         more   equitable
         consideration and rapid experimentation, and;
    •    Increased engagement, as members clearly see con-
         nections between their particular activities and an
         organization's overarching values, mission, and spirit.
        But openness is fluid. Openness is multifaceted. Openness
is contested.
        While every organization is different—and therefore every
example of an open organization is unique—we believe these
five characteristics serve as the basic conditions for openness in
most contexts:
    •    Transparency
    •    Inclusivity
    •    Adaptability
    •    Collaboration
    •    Community

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Characteristics of an open organization
        Open organizations take many shapes. Their sizes, compo-
sitions, and missions vary. But the following five characteristics
are the hallmarks of any open organization.
        In practice, every open organization likely exemplifies
each one of these characteristics differently, and to a greater or
lesser extent. Moreover, some organizations that don't consider
themselves open organizations might nevertheless embrace a
few of them. But truly open organizations embody them all—and
they connect them in powerful and productive ways.
        That fact makes explaining any one of the characteristics
difficult without reference to the others.

        In open organizations, transparency reigns. As much as
possible (and advisable) under applicable laws, open organiza-
tions work to make their data and other materials easily
accessible to both internal and external participants; they are
open for any member to review them when necessary (see also
inclusivity). Decisions are transparent to the extent that every-
one affected by them understands the processes and arguments
that led to them; they are open to assessment (see also collabo-
ration). Work is transparent to the extent that anyone can
monitor and assess a project's progress throughout its develop-
ment; it is open to observation and potential revision if
necessary (see also adaptability). In open organizations, trans-
parency looks like:
    •    Everyone working on a project or initiative has access to
         all pertinent materials by default.
    •    People willingly disclose their work, invite participation
         on projects before those projects are complete and/or

                    The Open Organization Leaders Manual

         "final," and respond positively to request for additional
    •    People affected by decisions can access and review the
         processes and arguments that lead to those decisions,
         and they can comment on and respond to them.
    •    Leaders encourage others to tell stories about both their
         failures and their successes without fear of repercus-
         sion; associates are forthcoming about both.
    •    People value both success and failures for the lessons
         they provide.
    •    Goals are public and explicit, and people working on
         projects clearly indicate roles and responsibilities to en-
         hance accountability.

        Open organizations are inclusive. They not only welcome
diverse points of view but also implement specific mechanisms
for inviting multiple perspectives into dialog wherever and
whenever possible. Interested parties and newcomers can begin
assisting the organization without seeking express permission
from each of its stakeholders (see also collaboration). Rules and
protocols for participation are clear (see also transparency) and
operate according to vetted and common standards. In open or-
ganizations, inclusivity looks like:
    •    Technical channels and social norms for encouraging di-
         verse points of view are well-established and obvious.
    •    Protocols and procedures for participation are clear,
         widely available, and acknowledged, allowing for con-
         structive inclusion of diverse perspectives.
    •    The organization features multiple channels and/or
         methods for receiving feedback in order to accommo-
         date people's preferences.

                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

   •    Leaders regularly assess and respond to feedback they
        receive, and cultivate a culture that encourages frequent
        dialog regarding this feedback.
   •    Leaders are conscious of voices not present in dialog
        and actively seek to include or incorporate them.
   •    People feel a duty to voice opinions on issues relevant to
        their work or about which they are passionate.
   •    People work transparently and share materials via com-
        mon standards and/or agreed-upon platforms that do not
        prevent others from accessing or modifying them.

       Open organizations are flexible and resilient organiza-
tions. Organizational policies and technical apparatuses ensure
that both positive and negative feedback loops have a genuine
and material effect on organizational operation; participants can
control and potentially alter the conditions under which they
work. They report frequently and thoroughly on the outcomes of
their endeavors (see also transparency) and suggest adjust-
ments to collective action based on assessments of these
outcomes. In this way, open organizations are fundamentally ori-
ented toward continuous engagement and learning.
       In open organizations, adaptability looks like:
   •    Feedback mechanisms are accessible both to members
        of the organization and to outside members, who can of-
        fer suggestions.
   •    Feedback mechanisms allow and encourage peers to as-
        sist   one   another      without     managerial    oversight,   if
   •    Leaders work to ensure that feedback loops genuinely
        and materially impact the ways people in the organiza-
        tion operate.

                     The Open Organization Leaders Manual

    •    Processes for collective problem solving, collaborative
         decision making, and continuous learning are in place,
         and the organization rewards both personal and team
         learning to reinforce a growth mindset.
    •    People tend to understand the context for the changes
         they're making or experiencing.
    •    People are not afraid to make mistakes, yet projects and
         teams are comfortable adapting their pre-existing work
         to project-specific contexts in order to avoid repeated

        Open organizations are communal. Shared values and pur-
pose guide participation in open organizations, and these values
—more so than arbitrary geographical locations or hierarchical
positions—help determine the organization's boundaries and
conditions of participation. Core values are clear, but also sub-
ject to continual revision and critique, and are instrumental in
defining conditions for an organization's success or failure (see
also adaptability). In open organizations, collaboration looks
    •    People tend to believe that working together produces
         better results.
    •    People tend to begin work collaboratively, rather than
         "add collaboration" after they've each completed individ-
         ual components of work.
    •    People tend to engage partners outside their immediate
         teams when undertaking new projects.
    •    Work produced collaboratively is easily available inter-
         nally for others to build upon.

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

   •    Work produced collaboratively is available externally for
        creators outside the organization to use in potentially
        unforeseen ways.
   •    People can discover, provide feedback on, and join work
        in progress easily—and are welcomed to do so.

       Open organizations are communal. Shared values and pur-
pose guide participation in open organizations, and these values
—more so than arbitrary geographical locations or hierarchical
positions—help determine the organization's boundaries and
conditions of participation. Core values are clear, but also sub-
ject to continual revision and critique, and are instrumental in
defining conditions for an organization's success or failure (see
also adaptability). In open organizations, community looks like:
   •    Shared values and principles that inform decision-mak-
        ing and assessment processes are clear and obvious to
   •    People feel equipped and empowered to make meaning-
        ful contributions to collaborative work.
   •    Leaders mentor others and demonstrate strong account-
        ability to the group by modeling shared values and
   •    People have a common language and work together to
        ensure that ideas do not get "lost in translation," and
        they are comfortable sharing their knowledge and sto-
        ries to further the group's work.

                                                          Version 2.0
                                                          April 2017
        The Open Organization Ambassadors at

Learn More
                  The Open Organization Leaders Manual

Additional resources

The Open Organization mailing list
      Our community of writers, practitioners, and ambassadors
regularly exchange resources and discuss the future of work,
management, and leadership. Chime in at

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Download free discussion guides for help getting started. Just

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open organizations. Find the hashtag #OpenOrgChat, check the
schedule at
ter-chats, and make your voice heard.

                   The Open Organization Leaders Manual

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