Government as ‘The Open Organization’

For those who want to learn how government can become more engaged institutionally, both internally and externally, “The Open Organization” is the blueprint.

By GovFresh · May 4, 2016

When most people think “open source,” the first image that comes to mind is code, but open isn’t just technology. It’s also operations and culture with special attention to transparency, participation, collaboration and meritocracy.

In “The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance,” Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst shares how leaders can be more authentic, talking openly about challenges and addressing them through a system based more on those, internally and externally, who have the most to offer. It’s an inspiring read, one most appropriate for elected officials and public sector leaders.

In a nutshell:

An "open organization" -- which I define as an organization that engages participative communities both inside and out -- responds to opportunities quickly, has access to resources and talent outside the organization, and inspires, motivates and empowers people at all levels to act with accountability. The beauty of an open organization is that it is not about pedaling harder, but about tapping new sources of power both inside and outside to keep pace with all the fast-moving changes in your environment.

One of my favorite excerpts addresses a key issue that plagues some in government, especially the federal level, around relying on the limited aspects of crowdsourcing. While engaging the wisdom of the crowds to generate ideas and opportunities is interesting and helpful, its shortcomings are in cultivating a sustainable community that continues to build and refine a solution:

Open source communities operate on a level beyond crowdsourcing, going beyond the one-way and one-time-only arrangements in which a lot of people give their ideas or answers but don't engage with each other over time. Instead, the way they operate is better described as open sourcing, where contributors work together as a community, building on each other's work, to arrive at the best solution to a complicated problem. The communities involve many people working toward a similar outcome. They usually involve a diverse community of people who opt in as a way to work for a common cause about which they are passionate. And the produce results: they are more responsive to fast-changing environments and better at accomplishing "big, hairy, audacious goals" than any one single firm or organization.

Whitehurst shares how institutions can open up by creating platforms that allow everyone in the organization to contribute equally. He discusses how passion, purpose, emotion and emotional intelligence is integral to leading an open organization.

Government is a purpose-driven organization and, as Whitehurst outlines in “The Open Organization,” intrinsic motivation is at the heart of nearly every civil servant. For those who want to learn how government can become a more engaged institution, both internally and externally, “The Open Organization” is the blueprint.