Archive for August 10th, 2005

Organizational Interfaces, part 2

August 10th, 2005

Here’s another aspect of the “organizational interface” I’d love to see enter the discussion: “What is different about working in open source projects? How much of what is different is attributable simply to the fact that bad management practices aren’t tolerated by volunteers?” Over and over again I hear people say “That’s because it’s an open source project” or “we can’t do that because it’s open source.” Sometimes these comments make sense to me.

But often when I hear this type of comment I think something like: “The course of action you are proposing won’t be liked by anyone, either volunteers or employees. If getting and keeping people motivated and producing above the call of duty is important to success, then you won’t do this sort of thing. Or at least not very often. Or if it’s really necessary, you’ll do a lot of explaining and trying to build consensus, and perhaps change some of your goals.”

Many of things that drive away volunteers (bad practices, lack of focus, bad organization) also drive employees away. It may take longer with employees, for a variety of reasons. Maybe the employees need time to find another way to support themselves before they leave. Maybe employment status has enough other benefits that on balance it’s worth it. But even if they stay, management practices that would drive volunteers away often result in dysfunctional organizations. The employees stay, but are at odds with their employer, and /or lose their commitment to the project.

On the other hand, there certainly are real differences, and open source practices such as transparency, peer review, and leadership based on reputation with one’s peers create a different dynamic. I’d like to see they dynamic better understood and adopted. I’d also like to learn its limitations through a more rigorous analysis than the current “Oh, that’s open source” meme.

Skip past the sidebar