Gentoo is good. How do we make it great?
Over the past year or so, I’ve read a few books, and I want to use those ideas to build a better Gentoo. The books:
- Good to Great, by Jim Collins
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
- The Art of Project Management, by Scott Berkun
- The Power of Focus, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt
I plan to write a short series of posts discussing the lessons in these books and how to apply them to Gentoo. In this post, I’m going to summarize the concepts of “Good to Great.” I’ll discuss how we can apply them to Gentoo in a later post. The book explains what it takes to transform a good company into a great one. It’s a comparison of companies that made a transition from good to great (thus the title) with companies that remained merely good. Jim Collins and his group reduced the differences to a remarkably small set:
- Level 5 leadership: The leaders of great companies aren’t charismatic, big-name CEOs. They’re humble, and their ambition is for the company, not for themselves.
- First, get the right people: Before you decide what to do and where to go, get the right people in the right spots. Otherwise, you’ve got the wrong people creating the wrong vision, strategy, etc., which the right people are then forced to implement. Concrete implementations:
- “When in doubt, don’t hire—keep looking. (Corollary: A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people.)”
- “When you know you need to make a people change, act. (Corollary: First be sure you don’t simply have someone in the wrong seat.)”
- “Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems. (Corollary: If you sell off your problems, don’t sell off your best people.)”
The right people have the right innate abilities and character traits, not necessarily the specific knowledge and skills. For example, look for work ethic, dedication, and problem-solving ability, not ebuild-writing skills and knowledge of bash.
- Confront the brutal facts: Don’t deny reality, or you can’t make the right decisions. To do this, create an environment where everyone can be heard, so the truth can come out. Don’t lose faith that you will win eventually, but accept the reality of now.
- The Hedgehog Concept: Only do things that overlap in the three circles:
- You’re passionate about it
- You can be the best in the world at it
- It drives your resource engine
The resource engine is a combination of time (how well we attract contributors), money and brand (how well we create a community), drawn from an accompanying monograph for the social sectors.
- Build a culture of discipline: Create a culture of self-disciplined people who are “fanatically consistent with the three circles.” Bureaucracy arises to compensate for incompetence and poor discipline due to having the wrong people. If you’ve got the right people, you don’t need the bureaucracy.
- Technology accelerators: If a new technology fits into your Hedgehog Concept, become a pioneer. If not, settle for decent, or drop it altogether if you can.
- The flywheel and the doom loop: Transforming from good to great is not quick. It’s a flywheel, slowly building momentum. From outside, all people see is the breakthrough, but from inside there’s a prior buildup. Merely good companies couldn’t build momentum—they jumped around from focus to focus, never getting anywhere with any of them. You don’t need to spend effort getting people behind your idea. Show them the results, and they’ll follow you.
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