The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Purpose

By Lia Aurami

This is a short summary of the review of Jim Whitehurst book, “The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Purpose” written by Wendy M Grossman.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 19.35.17Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst explains why organisations should be open, agile and responsive. These are admirable ideas, although examples of their application in challenging conditions would be useful.

Grossman describes the contrast between Whitehurst’s previous CEO position at Delta Airlines, a very hierarchical/numbers/rules organization where his word was law, and Red Hat, a passion/purpose/bottom-driven organization where his word was once tossed out as a bad idea! He had to go through an adjustment period, shifting his understanding of his role and function.

Grossman says:

“Whitehurst goes on to discuss how to inspire and motivate, how to encourage passion and engagement, and how to act as a catalyst for good decisions. Along the way, he includes examples of how other organisations, including Zappos, Starbucks and Whole Foods, have applied the same ideas.”

She notes that many of the ways Red Hat operates under Whitehurst are simply proven good ideas, which on the face of it would have an easier time working in purposeful/pioneer/world-changer situations. She asks how one would “get the same passion and purpose in a company that produces ball bearings?” (Apparently, the reviewer hasn’t read about the gear manufacturer that Frederic Laloux described in Reinventing Organizations, which uses these ideas and does indeed experience passion and purpose “all the way down.”)

And she wonders, might these organizational practices have saved Delta Airlines from the situation in which Whitehurst had to let 10,000 employees go? And would they save a company failing because its product is obsolete? Those are important and questions that are coming on the agenda of the movement of next-stage organizations, as it matures.

The full text of the review was published in ZDNet UK Book Reviews | August 3, 2015