Chris Hardie, who works for Automattic, shares his observations on where the power in a distributed organization comes from, versus the traditional one.
In an office setting, I see power and influence gather around…
- The person with the newest, coolest and/or most expensive clothing
- The person with the larger corner office
- The person with the most assistants
- The person with the most impressive sounding title
- The person with the closest parking space
- The oldest, richest, whitest males
- The person who’s allowed to create or interrupt meetings
- The person with the most impressive social and public-speaking skills
- The person who uses their power to get what they want
In a distributed organization, I see power and influence gather around…
- The person who produces output and solutions that exceed expectations
- The person who can connect deeply with colleagues over a distance
- The person who can effectively and concisely articulate their own views and ideas
- The person who helps their coworkers be the best versions of themselves
- The person generous with their understanding of how to navigate the organization’s processes and culture
- The person who can give voice to unrecognized or unspoken truths
- The person who learns fastest from their mistakes
- The person who uses their power to empower others
It’s of course not fair to generalize this way. There are healthy traditional organizations where appearances are not necessarily the basis for power. There are probably unhealthy distributed organizations where power centers around the appearance of lots of activity that produces few good outcomes. But my experience so far is that a distributed organizational structure inherently facilitates an experience of power, empowerment and leadership that is better for the people in it, and for the work they are doing together.
I don’t have much experience working for a distributed organization, but judging by many Open Source projects, which are, in essence, distributed organizations, I’m inclined to agree with the above observations. I wouldn’t be able to put in words so well though.
Subbu Allamaraju says “Don’t Build Private Clouds“. I agree with his rational.
There are very few enterprises in the planet right now that need to own, operate and automate data centers. Unless you’ve at least 200,000 servers in multiple locations, or you’re in specific technology industries like communications, networking, media delivery, power, etc, you shouldn’t be in the data center and private cloud business. If you’re below this threshold, you should be spending most of your time and effort in getting out of the data center and not on automating and improving your on-premise data center footprint.
His main three points are:
- Private cloud makes you procrastinate doings the right things.
- Private cloud cost models are misleading.
- Don’t underestimate on-premise data center influence on your organization’s culture.
Here are a couple of interesting articles from the last few days on Slashdot.
First, comes in a very non-surprising survey saying that “40 percent of organizations store admin passwords in Word documents“. Judging from my personal experiences in different companies, I’d say this number is much higher if you extend the Word documents to Excel spreadsheets and plain text files. I think pretty much every single company I’ve worked at used such common files for admin password storage (at least at some point).
“Why or why?!!!”, the security concerned among you might scream. Well, I think there are two reasons for this. The first one is that password management is complicated. There are tools that help with this, but even those are rarely easy to use. Storing the passwords in a secure, encrypted storage is one thing. But, how do you share them with just the right people? How do you trust the tool? What happens if the file gets corrupted, the software updates, the license expires, or the master password is lost? The risk of losing admin access to all your equipment and accounts is scary. On top of that, there is the issue of changing passwords (especially when people leave the company) – not a simple job if you have a variety of accounts (hardware, software, services, etc) and a lot of people who have a varying degree of access. Or automation scripts that need access to perform large scale operations. Personally, I don’t think this problem has been solved yet.
The second reason is in this other Slashdot post – “Sad Reality: It’s Cheaper To Get Hacked Than Build Strong IT Defenses“. This is very true as well. A simple firewall and a strong password policy is often more than enough for many organizations. The risks of compromise are low. In those cases where it does happen, you’d often get some script kiddie consequence like a Bitcoin mining app or affiliate links spread across your website. Both are quite easy to detect and fix. Is it worth investing hundreds of thousands in equipment and personnel to prevent this? For many companies it is not.
The fact of the matter is that a lot of people don’t really care about security or privacy on the personal level, and that then translates into the organizational mentality as well.
Just think about people leaving in all those high crime areas. Some of them think the risk is worth it – maybe then can make more money there or have a more exciting life. Some of them simply can’t afford to move anywhere. That’s very similar to the digital security, I think. Some don’t care and prefer to run the risk, saving the money on protection. Some simply can’t afford to have a decent level of security.
O’Reilly runs a nice and simple article on what is risk management. They look at it from the perspective of a web application, but the suggestions are generic enough to be applied universally. The highlights are:
- Managing risk
- Identifying risk
- Remove worst offenders
- Review regularly
I particularly liked this paragraph from the identifying risks section:
You will likely find that there are obvious entries in the list, but there should also be entries that surprise you. This is good. You want to uncover as many of your risk vulnerabilities as possible, and if some of them don’t come as a surprise to you, you probably haven’t dug deep enough.
More and more paper work is moving into the digital domain, including legal documents. I’ve previously linked to Docracy – a service that provides a collection of legal documents, as well as tools to negotiate and sign them. Today I was made aware of another service – FormSwift. Some might find it to be more comprehensive, up-to-date and user friendly than the alternatives.
Have a look at the FormSwift’s collection of the free legal forms, which cover such categories as business, family, financial, life planning, real estate and other. Their tools are pretty sweet too, with support for Word and PDF files, and an online editor for PDF – not something you see every day.
Here is something that I don’t need now, but I’m sure the day will come when I’ll be looking for a resource like this – 800-Numbers. It’s a categorized listing of a whole lot of companies with their 1-800 toll free numbers.
Slashdot runs these two stories, a day apart:
Nobody is dying (yet), but it’s an interesting change in trends. Read Slashdot comments for more insight.
CommitStrip nails one of the ways of getting into a bad project …
I remember reading an interview with Matt Mullenweg (though can’t seem to find a reference now), where he said that this sort of thing happened with Automattic. People were asking them for commercial support, but they didn’t want to do it, so they started with an insane amount of like $5,000 per month and all of a sudden found themselves with a queue of people outside.
And they were not alone, of course.
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Bloomberg reports on a largest technology acquisition ever (excluding telephony):
Dell Inc. agreed to buy EMC Corp. for about $67 billion in the largest technology acquisition ever, creating a corporate-computing giant that will use a wider product lineup to woo customers as demand slows and competition stiffens.
Dell plans to pay $24.05 a share in cash plus tracking stock in EMC’s prize holding,VMware Inc., valued at about $9 for each EMC share, the companies said in a statement Monday. The price of $33.15 a share is 28 percent above EMC’s closing level on Oct. 7, just before reports surfaced that a deal was in the works.