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How to Create High-Performing Teams with an Open Source Approach

It’s no secret that our government’s most complex problems can’t be solved by a few genius individuals, or a new technology solution, no matter how amazing. What government really needs is high-performing teams — teams who have developed and honed the cultural habits to efficiently cultivate new ideas with innovative technologies – so they can get things done.

But how do you create such a team in your agency? That was the topic of the session “How to Create High Performing Teams” at GovLoop’s recent Tech Trends Virtual Summit. We heard from Josh Ranoa of Red Hat’s Open Innovation Lab. Ranoa guides customers through the journey of building better software and transforming their organization’s culture to meet changing business demands with Red Hat’s Open Innovation Labs. In his session, we heard how agencies can create teams that make an impact, innovate more quickly, while still improving the quality of their software by using an open source culture approach.

So how do they do it? Ranoa noted that in today’s fast-moving tech world, standing still means falling behind. IT teams in government need to quickly introduce new features and services that serve citizens and help employees work smarter. Success hinges on constant innovation, but speeding up software release cycles takes more than new tools. Success requires a new way of working that involves tools, people, and process.

This isn’t a new concept for today, Ranoa explained. The Industrial Revolution massively sped up the technology of our society. But it also affected culture. Technology changed the way people worked – think assembly lines and transportation of goods – but people also changed in the way they worked as new technology became available. Therefore, technology impacts culture and vice versa, which means that to improve the quality of your technology and software, you must first focus on how the people are working on the technology first.

Ranoa quoted Dr. David Bray, Exec Director, People-Centered Internet: “At the end of the day, when we talk about technology change — whether it’s the Internet of Everything, big data, or machine learning — it’s really about people and organizational cultures, first and foremost. Then it’s about how those people get stuff done together.”

So how can your agency’s team improve its software and processes by focusing first on culture and people? Moving to a culture of open source is the answer, according to Ranoa.

A Culture of Open Source

Most people traditionally think of open source as a technology approach. “The term ‘open source’ refers to something that can be modified and shared because its design is publicly accessible. But according to opensource.com, “While open source originated in the context of computer software development, today the term ‘open source’ designates a set of values: open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.”

“Open source is more than code,” Ranoa said. “It’s culture, too. You have to collaborate and be transparent, take a shared problem, and put it out to your community to solve.”

Ranoa said that an open source community and culture approach creates innovative and problem-solving teams in four ways:

  • Engaged communities more rapidly adapt change
  • Transparency forces honesty and authenticity
  • Open standards preserve agility
  • Shared problems are solved faster

Moving from a traditional culture to an open source culture is not easy, however. “Most of this is actually common sense,” Ranoa said, “but that doesn’t mean at all that it’s easy, especially in a government setting.”

That’s where Red Hat’s Open Innovation Labs come in. With on-site residencies for teams, they help groups and agencies learn to do all of the following: experiment and rapidly build prototypes, do DevOps, and be agile; work side-by-side with experts in a residency-style engagement; and bring modern application development back to your team.

“Whether it’s co-creating a disruptive product, accelerating cultural transformation in the enterprise, or discovering what’s possible with a suite of proven and open tools and methods, Open Innovation Labs is designed to jump-start organizations,” Ranoa said.

Keeping in line with their open source approach, the Labs actually makes public their entire philosophy, approach and best practices in a GitHub repository, and they have an e-book for government, too.

In short, Ranoa concluded, open source must be applied to your culture and your people as well as your technology processes in order to have a truly modern, innovative government. If you immerse your team in the best of open source tools, methods, and culture, you can improve and innovate your organizational culture, speed up your next application development project, and make approaches like DevOps a reality.

To read more blog posts from GovLoop’s Tech Trends Virtual Summit, head to these links:

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