I’ve talked on “speed” as a competitive advantage. Do open organizations have that advantage?
That’s a really interesting question! I’d argue that they don’t. Open organizations require more time for ideas to be debated, refined, and accepted before they can be implemented. It’s much faster for a decision to be made by a single person or small group and imposed on the organization.
Of course, faster doesn’t necessarily mean better. And speed isn’t always that beneficial on its own. You can ask Microsoft about how much a seven-year head start helped Windows Mobile against the iPhone. Or how MySpace used it’s advantage to crush Facebook. Timing, more than speed, is what’s important.
But speed isn’t just time-to-market, it can also be time-to-react-to-changes. As I said in my reactive vs resilient article, sometimes not reacting is the best reaction, and the slower, more deliberative process of an open organziation becomes a benefit here.
So I’d make the case that open orgs are slower, but the payoff is better decisions.
How can open orgs mitigate that slowness?
- Doing some work in parallel to building consensus, in the hope that the consensus is relatively close to the work you’ve done. Indeed, sometimes you have to do some work so that there’s something to build consensus around.
- Agree to delegate some decisions to the relevant experts without needing full organizational buy in. We’ve talked about this before: the difference between having a voice and having a vote. And sometimes it’s okay to not give everyone a voice. For example, the Fedora Council has adopted a position that for some decisions, we rely on the associated person or group to make the right decision without first seeking Council input. They inform the Council after the fact, and the Council can step in and overrule them, but generally we say “make routine decisions as easy as possible”.
- Probably other things?
Thanks for prompting this brain dump, Ron. I’d love to hear other takes on this question.