Below is an email I recently sent to the OWASP leader's list. I think this perspective applies to many open source projects.
(Minor corrections for typos.)
We had a lively debate of various points this week. The actual issues
aside, I’d like to provide some perspective on leading change.
The takeaway from the heated discussion was:
1. Some people feel X is bad
2. Other people feel X is fine
3. Some people feel some small tweaks would have made X better
was some good civil discussion, some shouting occurred, accusations were thrown around, and in the end the issue slowly fell away.
What were the results of this conversation?
1. Some people felt better to share their thoughts on an issue
2. Other people were likely offended from accusations
3. A list of several hundred people watched the back and forth
4. We ended where we started – this may be because our current stance is
acceptable or because our approach to initiating change was poor
My two cents on how to lead effective change at OWASP
Keep the stones you are about to throw in your pocket. Use those stones to build a bridge.
* Change happens when people evaluate a situation, receive a variety of feedback, and build consensus around a path forward
Assume good intent – everyone is putting in countless hours of time,
when situations get close to the grey zone, let’s assume good intent and
act as a team
* Apply change in a forward-looking fashion. Most people are happy to
get on board with an approach that is well thought out, socialized with
the community, and better for OWASP.
* Look at issues holistically.
If the whole forest is on fire, it doesn’t do any good to pick a single
tree and focus on that. Look at the overall incentive structure, and the
public guidance – we likely need to rethink the overall program.
How does this manifest at OWASP?
Do you think X, Y, or Z
can be better? If so, start a global initiative and get some people
involved from various perspectives (for and against, various vantage
points/backgrounds). Evaluate the situation and consider the various
incentives at play.
Is this red tape? Not really, you’re free to approach the problem
however you choose. But please consider this advice as you drive to lead
change in an organization that spans the world, is completely open and
volunteer driven, and is trying to fundamentally change knowledge
sharing around an area that many people don’t understand.
-Michael Coates - @_mwc