Book Club - The Open Organisation

The Open Organisation (Audible | Amazon | Goodreads)

I’d recommend The Open Organisation for everyone at Status or people interested in Open Source orgs that aren’t just a hobby project. This is particularly useful for people who have come from traditional companies and are working in an Open Source org for the first time.

The book is split into three sections. Here are my personal notes (not exhaustive) I took along the way, and potentially how they apply to Status:

WHY: Motivating and Inspiring

  • Need to give people an intrinsic value to work
  • Some ideas for interview questions:
    • Ask about the strategy of their previous work? How would they change their old job to make it more impactful? This is a good way to ensure that people are engaged in their work.
    • What are they passionate about? What inspires them?
  • Show passion. Add passionate words to my vocabulary.
  • Give a Purpose and Mission to the team
  • Measuring motivation:
    • How likely are you to recommend a friend to join Status? Think of it as NPS for internal happiness?

HOW: Getting Things Done

  • Who are the influencers in the organisation? Thermometers and thermostats
    • Thermometers were the people who reflected the temperature of an organization (followers), while thermostats were those who set that temperature (leaders).
  • Allow flexibility for people to do what they want.
    • People should aim to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.
  • Important points for showing intrinsic leadership
    • Show passion for the project
    • Demonstrate confidence
    • Get people on your team to give you feedback
  • We need to grow a thicker skin in order to have good debates. Hate on an idea not the person
    • We should proactively invite feedback on ideas and thank those that give it to you. Start debates, and sure nobody takes it personally.

WHAT: Setting Direction

  • Never surprise the organisation with a decision (e.g. Open Bounty). All decisions should be made with complete transparency. The more significant the change, the more open we should be about it.
  • Red Hat summit sets their agenda in an Unconference style. We should do the same in Prague
  • When implementing a new decision making model (e.g. idea meritocracy). It takes time for groups to re-organise themselves to change their decision making process.
  • Communicate to team members that “This is a problem I’m trying to solve”, rather than “This is a solution”.
    • Ask questions, instead of taking action and providing answers.

Further awesome resources are at


I’m halfway through (and also highly recommend, since I came from a more “traditional” background). Couple of notes/highlights that I picked out so far:

  • “Great [organisations] don’t hire great people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them”.

  • The need to keep passion constructive. Whitehurst talks about (and praises) “disruptive battles” where team members face off over key decisions. However, he points out that sometimes emotions make them lose sight of the facts, and that we tune out the merits of something we don’t agree with. “As an organisation, we have had to learn how to best balance our passions so that they don’t become destructive”.

1 Like

A great resource from Red Hat about Open Decision Making:



TL;DR - decision making should be:

Transparent Inclusive Customer-Centric
Explain who is making the decision, what problems you’re trying to solve, the requirements and constraints involved, and the process you will follow. Engage others for feedback and collaborate throughout the decision-making process. Seek out diverse perspectives, including potential detractors. Think of people as customers with competing needs and priorities. When a decision will help some customers, but disappoint others, manage relationships and expectations while getting stuff done.

Share often, share early…