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VIDEO & ANALYSIS: Change management and inclusive decision-making | Red Hat Case Study

DeAnne Aguirre, senior partner with Strategy&, discusses techniques that can help companies transform quickly and effectively.

Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO of Red Hat contests that  people’s unwillingness to change has its root cause in the boards that make decisions and send out orders and then…nothing happens.

DOLLARAnd almost certainly, more time, energy, and money is spent on change management efforts and consultants, than is spent on making the decision in the first place —which is why these executives get so frustrated.


Research reveals that some 60 percent of major projects fail to achieve their objectives.

What they lack is inclusive decision-making.

Jim Whitehurst explains: We involve broad groups of our more than 8,300 associates in decisions up front — not later on, after the decision has already been made. The best way that I can describe how that feels is that we move most of the “change management” activities into the decision-making process itself. I have learned there is incredible value when we get our associates involved in creating the solutions rather than just expecting them to execute on whatever management has decided they should do. By using simple technology like email and online forums as an ally, we can reach out to far more people in the organization that can fit in any one meeting room and collect feedback on the ideas we are considering implementing. And when we share our ideas and plans, we are open, honest, and frank… That’s how you remove barriers and naysayers from the execution process.

But I’ll admit; it isn’t easy. As a leader, it challenges your ego — it is not fun to have people question, question, and question every decision you make. For example, not long after I took over as CEO of Red Hat, it became apparent to me that the organization’s mission statement did not provide a direct link to our associates’ day-to-day actions… To rectify this, rather than crafting the company mission behind closed doors, we showed it to the whole company in draft form via our internal email list. And we asked everyone what they thought of it. We asked which parts resonated most. We asked what we should change. We asked for suggestions to make it better…. By asking Red Hat associates to become a part of the process, and then taking some of their best feedback and using it to improve the mission itself, we gave them ownership of the mission.

I’m happy to report that using a fully transparent process to create our mission statement resulted in a huge success. It resonates with our people because it is a statement not only about what we do, but also how we do it. But you can judge for yourself:

To be the catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners creating better technology the open source way.

But why would anyone go through all of that work?

The simple answer is because it leads to better decisions, better engagement, and better execution — which gives us incredible competitive advantages.

And the more you practice, the more you’ll find your organization getting into a rhythm where, over time, slower decisions will truly lead to faster results.


This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review
Jim Whitehurst is the president and CEO of Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source enterprise IT products and solutions. Full Bio | More from Jim Whitehurst
The Conference Board, founded in 1916, is a global, independent business membership and research association that provides the world's leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society.

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