How democracy can kill an OSS

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
.

In setting the direction for a nation, democracy (the weight of numbers winning out) appears to have merits (not withstanding Roosevelt’s comment about the voters choosing wisely).

On an OSS project, democracy can quickly lead to stagnation.
Democracy has a place in the requirement capture phase, where every person has the right to provide their list of requirements. However, during the delivery phase, it can mortally wound the project.

If your project has stakeholders across multiple business units, the chances are that each business unit has fundamentally conflicting priorities from your OctopOSS project. A stalemate in the definition phase will generate additional meetings, document reviews, re-reviews and refusals to approve or authorise milestone deliverables.

In these cases, there also needs to be an element of dictatorship, where someone high enough in the organisation can chart a direction that is best fit for the organisation. This has been a clear point of positive difference for the corporate cultures in certain Asian CSPs where I’ve helped with OSS implementations.

When establishing your stakeholder matrix and governance model, ensure you have a pathway to overcome a democracy’s right to veto.

Have you developed other ways to avoid political stalemates on your OctopOSS projects?

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