Red Hat Business Culture: Stay Positive in the Face of Change
Red Hat Business Culture: Stay Positive in the Face of Change
[00:00:34] And welcome back to Disruptive Live.
[00:00:37] We are talking about business culture, so there’s been a lot of changes in the last year. Obviously with companies in lock down, there is no more and a lot of organisations face to face. But how do we keep things positive during this time and how have companies been making this positive? Well, I’m absolutely delighted to be joined today by the EMEA evangelist that Redhat Jan Wildeboer at Yune. Welcome. Thank you for having me. So what is an EMEA evangelist at Redhat?
[00:01:12] Well, you know, Redhat as a company is, you know, open source Linux and open shift and containers and all that kind of stuff. And I joined Redhat 15 years ago as a pre-sales guy doing technical consulting and all that kind of stuff. And after two years, the vice president, general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa came to me and said, Young, you’re the worst pre-sales Redhat has ever hired. You go to customers and you only talk, but you don’t do your job. You don’t write documentation because you hate writing. On the other hand, all the stuff you tell our customers actually makes them understand what we do in a better way. So why don’t we make that your job? And since then, I’m just talking. That’s what I do.
[00:01:52] So you are you are like Nylex from Star Trek, Voyager. You are here to to drum the positive message.
[00:02:01] So what what is the positive message? So like in the U.K., we have lots of companies. I’m in central London at the moment. It’s fairly deserted. Most people are now at home. They’ve been at home for a very long time and they’re continuing to work. But a lot of the things are in a Zoome environment or similar. And what is the what is the current climate at the moment?
[00:02:27] Well, this is, of course, a travelling to the unknown. This this came as a big surprise. I live in Munich, so I’m talking right now from Munich and Munich. In January, we had the first official diagnosed case of covid-19, which was, by the way, exactly on my birthday. So I gave my birthday kind of an interesting touch. But thinking about the positive part of it, it could actually happen that next year on my birthday on the 24th of January, we have the first people who get vaccinated, which is in record time. The world has come together, the world of science and etc has come together to develop a solution and it’s almost ready, which is unbelievably fast. And that’s the point that, you know, yes, a lot of negative things are happening. A lot of companies are struggling. I totally get it. A lot of people have lost their jobs or are locked up at home. Children cannot go to school. It’s all very difficult. The good thing is we know it will end in six months from now round, about maybe eight months or ten months. There is a limit to this and then things will start up again, but not the same way. I hope there are a lot of good lessons that we have learnt over the past few months and not only negative things working from home, remote working. What does it do with people? It does positive and negative things.
[00:03:48] So let’s try to find out what the good things were in these these times and keep them. I mean, there’s. There’s so much negativity around that sometimes you just need to sit back and wonder why we’re doing this video call right now, know we’re sitting here in our respective home studios, whatever. This would not have been possible a few months ago. So I’m not saying everything is wonderful. I’m just saying it’s will make it.
[00:04:18] It’s certainly different, it’s certainly different, so when. I’m a I’m a business leader, I’ve got an organisation and I want to create a positive and attractive culture, what kind of rules? I mean, it’s like a core base of rules that I should try to I should have been adopting, or if I haven’t, I should be adopting in order to keep that positivity.
[00:04:40] Well, of course, I’m talking a little bit biased here from my Redhat perspective. But the first thing that happened after the lockdown was a clear message from from our top level management. Nobody is going to get fired. We will continue to hire people.
[00:04:55] We know how Reimold works. You know, more than than 32 to 40 percent of a work force have been removed anyway, the developers and a lot of the salespeople and etc.. So it was not that that huge switch. So my first lesson here is make sure that people are. Not necessarily relaxed, because it’s a little bit too complicated for that, but that they understand that they’re not left alone. Then the second thing is one of the things that that we hold very dear is trust people. You know, people are really good at organising themselves under pressure. Give them the freedom to do that. Do not try to micromanage them. Do not install spyware on the machines and make sure that they are sitting eight hours a day in front of a webcam because that’s ridiculous. Set goals that are acceptable, understand that things will get complicated, offer help with that. And then honestly, the most important message, trust people you are you hired these people because you think they’re good. And if they continue to be good, you have to give them the opportunity to be that they will organise.
[00:06:02] And of course, one of the one of the big questions would be if you’re a growing business, I mean, how how do you continue to grow and implement these changes?
[00:06:17] Yeah, that’s there is no universal solution. But so I see it, you know, with us, we’re still hiring people and that means we do new hire orientation’s, which normally involve the people coming here to Munich. And we have guided city tours and we get lots of food and drinks and a wonderful Bavarian restaurant. All of that is gone now since six, eight months. So we have to switch it to virtual, which means we have people working at our company now who for the last eight months have never physically met any colleague that’s, you know, that changes things. So we make sure that they they feel involved. We have the tools at hand. And if you’re growing now, don’t stop growing. It’s really it sounds weird. I know, but actually it’s a good opportunity because this is a perfect time to explore new solutions and find your advantage in there, because everybody is in the same situation. So I don’t have the universal baked good solution to solve all of this. But what I can say is that I am impressed with how people react to this and how people find themselves in this. And if you give them that little bit of trust that, you know, try it experiment, it will work. I’m 100 percent sure.
[00:07:40] Well, I mean, it’s it’s really interesting because Redhat is a large organisation, you were required a while ago now by IBM, again, the organisation. However, you have loads of partners and loads of clients, and you must talk to developers in all sorts of people on a Day-To-Day basis so we can talk, we can talk and we’ll continue to talk about the things that have worked. But what have you seen that hasn’t worked? I mean, what kind of culture changes that people have implemented have kind of just backfired?
[00:08:16] Well, you see, working from home is not really working from home. It’s it’s taking taking your work to home. So you’re changing your home environment. And psychologically, it has a big effect. So what we have noticed is especially our employees with with children, of course, you know, we’re sorry, our employees with children when when schools are closing, when the children are at home or the junior people that we hire that still live in, I don’t know, in small apartments or flats together with other people, the logistics have become very complicated. So that’s a very simple solution to that, is to make sure that everybody has the tools they need to to function in the best possible way. And I’m not only talking about the simple things like sending a desk chair or a decent laptop or whatever, but also making sure the infrastructure is there, that you have fast Internet connexions. This is becoming a real problem for for for some companies where people have worked in the office for four years now and now suddenly they have to work from home and they have a crappy Internet connexion at home. So they cannot do video conferences. So do we need video conferences for everything? Do we need that bandwidth stuff? No, of course not. We have developed some things already in the past. You know, we have customers all across the planet and some of them are in really weird situations. One of our customers is a I will not say which country, but as a consultant going on a submarine to fix a cluster and be, you know, offline for three weeks for a job that takes three days, that’s the stuff that happens. So, of course, these are weird exceptions. But what typically goes wrong is communication and clear communication and clear metrics on what’s happening next, expectations that have to be met. Coordination gets slower in this situation. You know, you cannot simply walk over to someone and get stuff done. So you have to take that into account. Productivity will not be the same. But on the other hand, people are more flexible and they understand that it’s not your normal nine to five job, which is also a risk you need. Sometimes you need to stop people from being too overly enthusiastic because they have nothing else to do and they sit in front of their computer all day and sometimes all night. So we focus a lot on the mental health part of it, making sure that people know if something goes wrong. And this is absolutely acceptable in this situation, that you feel too much pressure, that you feel like you can handle this because it’s all too complicated. You cannot visit your parents. You cannot visit your friends. This has an impact. So offer help with that anonymous or directly or whatever. That’s the big task, especially for managers in this situation.
[00:11:02] Well, I mean, several of the companies that we’ve spoken to during this entire period or are smaller, maybe the start up smaller organisations and, you know. Like with everything in a smaller start up organisation chain, it can be fast, but you’re never quite sure because you can’t test the water. Well, it does work and it doesn’t work. I mean, what advice can someone from from a larger organisation that’s seen these things give to someone from from a start up or smaller?
[00:11:34] Well, the the biggest lesson is not very typical for a large organisation, but very typical for Redhat. We have a culture of failing. So in open source means, you know, you put your coat out there, you’re looking for people to to cooperate on this. That sometimes works and sometimes it simply doesn’t. So one of the things we have learnt over the years, long before this pandemic happened, is to be extremely good at failing. And that means to see when things go in the wrong direction and act immediately and not when it’s too late. So not to get stuck in something of which you hope it might work at some time in the future. No, you have to have clear metrics for us. That simply means do we get enough traction out there? Do we find enough people to cooperate on this outside of our organisation? And if that doesn’t work, then immediately have an alternative ready. Never settle on one single solution. Make sure you have always an alternative, because especially in the Start-Up World, it becomes a mixture of a lot of other Start-Up things and services that they hire from other people who are also very innovative and etc. And these also fail. And sometimes you lose your accounting system or you lose your your marketing system or your analytics system because for whatever reason.
[00:12:50] So innovation and dealing with this means that you must understand that failure is the best way to learn stuff and that failure is actually a good thing in your organisation. That doesn’t mean you have to fail at all things. Of course. It just means that you have to recognise when you start wasting time and energy on something that doesn’t deliver.
[00:13:13] I mean, I suppose there’s a flip side to that question in the one of the things around large organisations is that it can be very slow to change, know everything has to be signed in triplicate and meetings and all sorts of things. And of course, this this situation maybe caught people unaware, particularly this work from home, bringing your work home for companies that didn’t have that culture to begin with. And suddenly there was this dramatic shift and a dramatic shift in technology as well. And we could talk about the technology all day. But this is this is on culture. And so in some ways, start-ups are quite, very agile. They change very quickly and they can change very quickly. So on the flip side question, what could a large organisation learn from from the Stobbs decentralised?
[00:14:08] Again, we’re going back to the very first answer I gave you. It’s all about trust. And if your team is too big and cannot coordinate and you have a management layer on top of that and the management layer on top of that, and you have your typical set of big organisation managers who focus, then, oh my God, this is going to get me into trouble, but who focus more on politics and less on results. That’s something you need to get rid of immediately. And that’s a general rule. Start-ups are really good at organising stuff out of nothing, but it comes at a price. You know, people have to invest a lot of physical and mental energy into that, and you can only do that for a certain amount of time. So you also need to be on the watch out for these kind of effects. In big organisations, the frustration can grow very high, not at Redhat so far because, you know, we have this this general attitude of if it doesn’t work, then we create something new and we have the freedom to try stuff in whatever ways we don’t have to do to replicate forms or whatever. We have to defend the solutions we use in and of other people like it. We use it. Typical open source approach. So I think this this level of of agility and freedom that is born out of trust is is the most important thing that big organisations should look at because they are people want to deliver results. They want to be good and they want to be recognised for that. So if you give them motivation in the right space and you give the tools and the freedom to use whatever and make experiments and some things will fail, it’s OK. But learn from it. Close the feedback loops. So you have an ongoing conversation about what works and what doesn’t and what can department AIX learn from department why? And that’s how you culturally evolve a general accepted solution.
[00:15:57] Well, what are the other things that those strikes me, I’ve seen different types of organisations and some of them have just been very, very focussed, very serious the entire time.
[00:16:10] And it’s you can tell that people are working more hours and they’re probably getting quite drained, if not already.
[00:16:17] On the on the other flip side, I’ve seen organisations that have tried to enforce fund. We’re going to fund just that human interaction. And, you know, there’s a bit of a balancing act there because one man’s person’s idea of fun is another person’s nightmare. What is the balance?
[00:16:37] I mean, yeah, well, you know, the kind of putting two hours in your calendar from 13 to 1500, have fun people and then at the end do a review. And and that’s ridiculous.
[00:16:55] The first thing you need to accept is that in this situation, concentration and attention spans are shorter because, you know, you work from home and you have a different situation. So except that stop looking at productivity numbers and all of that and this forced level of fun, it’s you know, it’s crazy. We all tried it. We had our resume drink and meet and then lunch together over Zoome, which is sometimes I was really happy about that. It happened over a video because I didn’t smell what kind of stuff they were eating.
[00:17:27] But this is this approach of getting people together is a good one.
[00:17:33] We we use that at Redhat, too. We have this mystery lunch approach where you sign up online and then you get matched up with someone from the organisation. We were a big organisation, so 17000 people to choose from. And there is whatever system in the background that matches us based on whatever non corporate interests, which is really exciting and fun because that brings two people together in one to one situation where they either click or don’t, and then, you know, stuff happens. So that kind of stuff is OK. But forcing it and setting aside casual Friday with a bottle of wine on the table is ridiculous because some people don’t want to drink alcohol. They’re not allowed to drink alcohol. And alcohol is never a solution. It’s only a problem again. Give the people the freedom to do this themselves. Give them if you want to give them a lot of time, two hours per week to do something non-productive to to keep the team together. That’s perfectly fine. And you don’t even have to talk about it. We do that internally. We have our official weekly scrum meeting and team I am in in marketing, which effectively devolves into twenty minutes of everybody whining how bad everything is and how bad the numbers are looking. And this will never end and the cat is dying or whatever stuff people need to vent. And if they vent in this way, you know, after that you come together and you talk about the good things that we can do together. So don’t suppress it. Don’t ignore that. We are in an exceptional situation right now. But also, you know, life goes on. It’s it’s we can deal with this. Just imagine this would have happened twenty years ago and we didn’t have all the infrastructure. It would have been an economical catastrophe. You know, there was no Internet at that time. There was no way to have all of these this online stuff and share documents and all of that. So let’s not forget that we are in an extremely privileged situation right now to handle this.
[00:19:22] Mm hmm. Oh, yeah, I mean, the the growth of technology, some of it is shadow IoT, but the growth of technology has been huge. I mean, there have been. Projects that were like, oh, we’ll get around to one day and we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it and throw throw money at this now.
[00:19:42] Quick, quick, quick.
[00:19:43] Don’t put that on the credit card. Yeah. I mean, it’s it’s huge. And you’re absolutely right. I mean, you can really do this on landlines back in the day with dial up modem.
[00:19:54] It’s it’s just it’s sometimes I wish sometimes I wish we would simply try it, you know, just reduce the people to a landline and a fax machine and then see how good that goes for a week. It’s not like the Netscape Navigator and then send floppy disks or USB sticks around with the new updates. And some organisations actually work that way right now because they’re so stuck in their legacy systems. They don’t have shadow I.T. They don’t have collaborative solutions. They don’t have the legal department tells them, do not touch anything that is not approved. So that’s another part. You know, that’s a cultural thing. Is your culture able to to be flexible enough to accept that exceptional times need exceptional measures and that that you can take exceptional steps as long as it keeps the company together? Definitely an important point.
[00:20:48] OK, so and if we had to summarise all this, I’m looking for some summarised magic bullets. Communication is is that it or what is the secret? Tell me the secret.
[00:21:03] The secret is always the same trust and balance you. There is too much communication and there is not enough communication. There is too much concentration and there is not enough. It is perfectly OK. And I think it’s needed right now to build on these two things. Balance and trust and balance and trust is different for every situation, every person and every team. So trying to find general rules or sticking to a big plan that, you know, some corporate guys made up wherever doesn’t work, especially in our situation. We are you know, we are a global organisation. So we have a lot of local cultures to take care of, a lot of local influences. So simple things like when when can you go shopping? You know, in Germany, shops are closed on Sunday period. So you have to do it during the week. So do you get the freedom to step out and do your shopping? Not in a time when the shop is crowded. All of these little things together and communication should be limited to two big things getting the job done and making sure that people feel OK. But don’t overdo it. You know, don’t try. There’s one term that I really. Despise. And that is when an organisation or a team or a company says, you know what, we are like family. No, you’re not your job, your you’re an employee. You need to create the atmosphere so your employees are motivated and get stuff done, but also stay healthy and fit and finding that balance, that is the big task of management. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s a Start-Up or a big organisation. It all comes back to these two things work life balance and trust.
[00:22:45] Beautiful. Very, very well put, John. John Filippa, thank you very much. You’re welcome. And stay happy. Thank you. That was John, built for the EMEA evangelist at Redhat talking about culture and positivity and how to maintain a positive cult business culture.
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