How Open is Your Organization?

If I were to ask you, “how open is your organization?” odds are, you would immediately think of your office layout, right? Cubes versus offices? Sure, that’s one way to go.

But what if “open” is how you describe your office culture?

The Open OrganizationAt a recent Technology Executives Roundtable event, I was lucky enough to hear Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, discuss his tips for building an open organization. Having left Delta for Red Hat, he pointed out the vast differences between both organizations.

While one relied on a more traditional management style with delineated chains of command, the other engages communities both inside and out to make decisions faster and change more adeptly.

In a business environment where speed and agility define a company’s success, Whitehurst believes it’s all about creating an organization that moves at a speed that allows you to respond to competitors who operate with less bureaucracy – and that starts with creating an open environment.

So what does “open” mean?

Here are four quick takeaways from Whitehurst.


  1. Foster a culture that allows risk and mistakes, and that includes the CEO too. Whitehurst admitted that in the past he has started meetings by acknowledging he had made a mistake.
  1. Level the playing field for all employees. No matter your position, all employees should be allowed to say what they want in meetings. From the outsider looking in, these meetings might appear chaotic. But to Whitehurst, this perpetual feedback allows Red Hat to make decisions quicker.
  1. It really is all about your people. Whitehurst describes the Red Hat culture as quirky and chaotic. As a result, not every person is going to thrive in that kind of environment. He says that’s okay if it isn’t a culture fit. You can never wait too long to let people go.
  1. To get the best employees, Whitehurst recommends: Always look within your company’s four walls first to get referrals from other employees. Once at an interview, don’t focus on the candidate’s resume. Instead, find out what they know about the industry they are in. That will help ensure you are adding a valuable asset to the team.

Interested in learning more about how Red Hat is thriving in its open organization culture? Check out Whitehurst’s book, The Open Organization. Happy reading!

By Star VanderHaar – May 24, 2016

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