What open source can teach us about remote working culture
For many businesses, the pandemic has created a new reality of working, with millions being forced to adapt to remote working overnight. Businesses are learning to operate and communicate with their colleagues and clients in different ways, adopting new tools to stay connected and facilitate collaboration in their remote teams. As we get to grips with this new normal, one of the main challenges for businesses is how they maintain a strong company culture that supports their distributed workforce.
First, it’s important to recognise that this isn’t ‘business as usual’ and it’s not realistic to replicate an in-office experience in a virtual setting. We’re all settling into this new reality differently, everyone has a unique set-up, and we’ve having to build a new culture from inside our homes.
As most of us have come to appreciate in the past few months, the office has many advantages from a company culture perspective - interacting on a daily basis allows relationships to strengthen, and it can be easier to feel a sense of camaraderie among colleagues and for creativity to flow. Unfortunately, you can’t transport the benefits of human interaction to a remote workforce.
However, we can take inspiration from the open source community when developing a remote culture. Open source communities are distributed by nature, consisting of developers scattered across the globe who are brought together by a shared purpose and desire to innovate. Different open source communities develop their own unique cultures, and they often establish rules and best practices to help their community thrive without stifling creativity.
Build culture around trust and freedom
One of the main takeaways from the open source approach is that it’s rooted in trust and freedom, principles that remote workforces should look to embrace. The nature of working remotely requires (and encourages) companies to put more trust in their employees. This is an opportunity to bring the focus back from the dreaded face-time culture to what’s important - delivery and results. If you are more concerned with your team being online for a certain period of time, you’re missing the point.
Open source communities are able to innovate because they are not tied to rigid processes or length of time spent on projects. Rather, individuals enjoy the freedom to work on ideas in the way that suits them best, and this approach helps drive projects forward.
Freedom is one of our core values at Red Hat. We know that having the ability to freely exchange opinions, ideas and expertise, is what inspires meaningful progress. All of our employees are currently working from home, and they have the freedom to work in the way that best suits their unique at-home situation..
By empowering workforces to take control of their work day, working when and how they choose, coming up with solutions in the way that makes sense to them, companies will find their staff are more productive, and likely more creative. For this to happen, rigid barriers and excessive supervision need to go.
There is no one-size-fits-all model
Most companies will have an umbrella set of values for their organisation, but these will be implemented locally across different teams, reflected in different cultures. Cultures will differ between international offices as well as between departments within each office. The culture of a team in Brazil will look very different to one in the UK. Accounting teams will share a different culture to those in public relations or marketing. But the core values promoted at an organisational level should be consistent.
We should consider the current work-from-home model as being another derivative of company culture, and an opportunity to explore benefits that we might otherwise not have discovered. At Red Hat, we’ve enjoyed finding new ways of staying connected during the lockdown period - from remote yoga sessions to virtual coffee breaks and after-work socials. Like many other organisations, the pandemic has forced us to find new ways to bond with colleagues and foster those relationships.
The lockdown will end at some point, and most of us will, eventually, return to an office. Rather than bouncing straight back to the way we worked pre-Covid, now is the perfect time for companies to reevaluate their culture. A good starting point is to embrace the aspects of remote working that have worked well and do away with the things we won’t miss about office life. Going forward, let’s enjoy the best of both worlds.
By Jan Wildeboer, EMEA Evangelist, Red Hat
Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF
As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.
The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”
It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.
“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”
The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”
Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.
“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”