What Managers can Learn From Open Source Project Management

What managers can learn from Open Source by Murray Cumming

Motivation: People work on open source projects because they enjoy it. These happy developers are productive developers. Managers of open source projects must ensure that the developers feel valued and fulfilled. They must minimise the tedious aspects of the work to ensure that development remains interesting. Otherwise, projects fail.

Although money can provide some incentive it does not provide as much. Managers who say that money is the greatest motivator are justifying their own poor performance. Managers of proprietary software, just like managers of open source software, must ensure that their developers are motivated properly. It is not enough to think that they should feel motivated.

Open source projects have the benefit of direct feedback from users. Systems such as bugzilla and open mailing lists make it easy for customers to express their needs. That is the necessary first step to satisfying those needs. See the Structural Solutions section.

For instance, proprietary application server projects such as BEA and WebSphere seem deaf to the frustrations of their customers, but the open source JBoss project is happy to hear about those problems and avoid them in its own product.

Standards/Consensus: Open Source projects must conform to, and reuse, accepted, up-to-date standards. Proprietary projects, without the benefit of high visibility or feedback are free to make inferior decisions.

Don’t miss this great essay by Paul Graham: What Business Can Learn from Open Source. And you know what else? I don’t think open source projects use the annual performance review.

Related: Open Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingDangers of Extrinsic MotivationWhat Motivates Programmers?Open Source Management Terms

One thought on “What Managers can Learn From Open Source Project Management

  1. Money has a detrimental factor to the developer in case it’s not enough. But once s/he’s given enough, then money will do little to motivate, and it’s only giving the programmer interesting work that will motivate him/her. That’s the essence of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


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