When you see value proposition and mindset conflicts, you know there is a basic strategy and leadership problem. This is common, and the reason it is common, is so few people in the world have transformation experience, all they know, is what they have been doing, successfully, for decades. Transformation experience opportunities come once very 20+years, perhaps once a generation. There are ways to address this issue, which I will in a future blog, but it all comes down to a question of value proposition: what is it, and is the organization aligned on delivering it.
I was reminded of this issue, reading Tom Nolle’s recent blog “How Convincing is the Operator Commitment to Open Source?” Tom makes a number of points, but the following really stood out for me:
- Tom’s assertion that the operator mindset has to change
- Tom’s quoting “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”
- Disorderly change and release processes: too much change, too quickly, with lack of coordination across the pieces
- Lack of control over product direction
Before making strong assertions, it would be good to see operators weigh in directly on Tom’s observations, but if we take Tom’s observations at face value, and his statement they came from operators, then as I look at Tom’s list of issues, I don’t see an open source problem, I see a fundamental strategy and leadership gap within operators.
From what Tom says, it appears that open source would work really well for operators, as long as it did not act like open source; an approach that was created for different types of value chains. When you combine that disconnect with Tom’s assertion that the operator mindset has to change, you can see a fundamental operating model problem: cultures doing something for decades, not being able to pivot in a new direction. From a strategy perspective, there are a couple of different ways to address that pivot problem, but that’s another discussion.
There are many different reasons these kinds of conflicts arise in companies: poorly articulated strategy, badly framed discussions, operations teams that are not listening too (don’t want to change), or otherwise, out of sync with those setting new directions, and more. It would be wrong to guess which of these, or other potentials, are the issue, without knowing more. What can reasonably be stated is these companies need clarity on what the overall value proposition of the company is, and then the rest of the company needs to align actions and investments with that value proposition – without knowing that, focusing on the in the weeds frictions with the open source approach is not addressing the most important issue. Pursuing goals like avoiding vendor lock-in, and reducing costs, might sometimes be worthwhile, but if they take a company off its basic value creation, delivery, and capture strategy (it’s business model), then that is problematic.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. You need clarity on what is important, you need clarity on value proposition, and you need operations leadership that can translate that clarity to actions and investments. It takes a village. If what Tom says is true, then operators need to look inside their own village first, before they can know if and how to engage other villages, for example open source.