Working on the business rather than in the business of OSS

Blogs from the last two days have covered the dilemma of dynamic operating procedures and why the standard operating procedures of the past are perhaps too idealistic a concept. Despite this, I still try to build repeatability into the various aspects of OSS delivery – initial installation, documentation, demonstrations, training, testing (and regression testing), etc. This concept was one of my key take-aways from the book, “The E-Myth Revisited,” by Michael Gerber.

The other take-away was that people who start businesses often make one fatal assumption – if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work. [1]

The reason most small businesses don’t work is that they are run by a “Technician”, someone who knows how to do the technical work involved in a job (working IN the business), without much thought to two other, equally important roles described in the book, the “Entrepreneur” and the “Manager” (working ON the business). [2]

We can probably draw an analogy to the OSS industry here. A vast majority of OSS experts fit into the “Technician” category by their activities, and who also focus their thinking on delivering outstanding technical resolutions. They’re working in the business. But the most valuable OSS experts I’ve dealt with also manage to switch between Technician, Entrepreneur and Manager. They manage to work on the business, it’s long-term implications and codifying the systems to make it more reliable and repeatable.

Interestingly enough, by taking the mindset of working on the business of OSS, it brings greater clarity on the context of the technical activities that need to be performed and in which priorities.

If you are an OSS expert and haven’t filled your roster of new year’s resolutions yet, may I suggest that you allocate the thoughts and efforts required to take your OSS and/or the OSS industry forward with your Entrepreneur” and the “Manager” hats on?

1. Paraphrased from
2. Paraphrased from

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