"Red Hat" and its "Culture of Discussion"
I read some great advice yesterday, relayed to me in the New York Times via Adam Bryant from the "president and chief executive of Red Hat" (provider of Linux and other open-source technology), Jim Whitehurst, who learned it God knows where, so I don't know the originator, but the advice is:
[F]or any business there are three levels of leadership. One is getting somebody to do what you want them to do. The second is getting people to think what you want them to think; then you don't have to tell them what to do because they will figure it out . . . . [The third and] best is getting people to believe what you want them to believe, and if people really fundamentally believe what you want them to believe, they will walk through walls. They will do anything.How to accomplish this, of course, is the hard part. Perhaps the other advice from Mr. Whitehurst -- given in Mr. Bryant's interview, "The Memo List: Where Everyone Has an Opinion" (March 10, 2012) -- can offer insight. Here's a possibility:
Our employees have always expected this: tell me why we're doing what we're doing, and allow me at least a voice in the decision process. Now a voice doesn't mean decision rights. It doesn't mean you have any say in the answer. But at least you have a vehicle for an opinion to be heard.This discussion procedure will likely get employees as far as doing what you want them to do, and perhaps as far as thinking what you want them to think, but maybe not as far as believing what you want them to believe. But it's still a good idea to have an internal forum for discussion of issues, and Red Hat does this through its Memo List, which Mr. Whitehurst explains:
We have about 4,000 employees, but on average you'll see a couple hundred posts a day . . . . Memo List is about the business. And I go through it every single day. I would say probably three-quarters of the people are on it every day, either reading or posting.Such an online, internal forum might not be applicable to every organization, but some compromise will always need to be found between hierarchical decision-making and democratic discussion, especially these days, as Mr. Whitehurst explains:
[W]e're on the bleeding edge of what so many companies are going to face because of this whole millennial generation coming up. It just does not like this idea of hierarchy.There you have it. The world is changing as technology flattens out various processes. People expect to express themselves and be lisitened to. Organizations must adapt . . . or fail.