The Open Organization Maturity Model

The Open Organization Maturity Model

About this document

The Open Organization Maturity Model is a framework for helping your organization to become more transparent, inclusive, adaptable, collaborative, and communal. It outlines steps that individuals, teams, and organizations can take to critically examine their organizational practices and chart their progress toward becoming a more open organization (as outlined in the Open Organization Definition).

All organizations are different, so they adopt open principles and practices to different degrees. This model's three-level design therefore aims both to assist organizations determining the relative degree to which they act openly—and to help them explore possibilities for becoming more so.

Transparency

In organizations that aren't open, transparency is rare. Individuals and teams do not regularly disclose their plans, products, or processes to multiple stakeholders. People affected by decisions are often surprised to learn about those decisions, and decision-makers often withhold data and resources without explanation. Locating and accessing potentially helpful resources can be difficult, in part because individuals and teams neither contribute to nor draw upon a shared repository of knowledge.

Level 1

  • Individuals and teams release project materials for review internally, after they've finished their work
  • People recognize that leaders are making decisions that affect them but don't see a clear or obvious way of providing input on those decisions
  • Materials that are part of decision-making practices become available for review after decisions are finalized
  • Individuals and teams are comfortable sharing stories about successes, but not about failures
  • Individuals and teams share resources but in disconnected, fragmented, or individualized/siloed systems or repositories
  • Individuals and teams release data and resources to others, but there is no commonly expressed or shared understanding of the criteria used to determine whether information is sensitive or not, and little context for understanding how decisions are made

Level 2

  • Individuals and teams make project-related and non-sensitive materials accessible to all members of project teams according to clearly defined and shared formats and/or protocols
  • People feel like they know about—and are helping to shape—most (but not all) important decisions as those decisions are unfolding
  • Materials that are part of decision-making practices are available at defined project milestones
  • Individuals and teams are comfortable sharing stories of successes and failures during retrospectives and reviews
  • The organization sponsors and promotes a shared repository for collective knowledge, and some organization members can and do contribute to it
  • Individuals and teams withhold sensitive data and resources, but they are somewhat unclear about what they're not sharing and provide limited details, context, and scope

Level 3

  • Individuals and teams make project-related and non-sensitive materials broadly accessible to the organization—and possibly outside the organization as well—according to clearly defined and shared formats and/or protocols
  • People feel like they are a part of a shared, standard process for collective decision-making that the organization endorses
  • Materials that are part of decision-making practices are available for review at the beginning of projects, and are easily and continuously accessible during work processes
  • Individuals and teams are comfortable sharing stories of successes and failures, and frequently engage in difficult conversations during project execution
  • The organization sponsors and promotes a robust and easily-accessible knowledge commons, and all teams and organization members make generous and unrestricted use of it
  • Individuals and teams who must withold sensitive data and resources are clear about what they're not sharing, and others understand why those materials are not available to them

Inclusivity

In organizations that aren't open, people lack established channels for providing feedback or learning about projects and activities. Leaders and project teams do not actively solicit diverse perspectives in their work or think broadly about involving stakeholders of different backgrounds. People do not expect decision making to be an inclusive activity, so the organization does not actively promote a process for collective or collaborative decision-making. Instead, leaders make decisions without much input from others, and people are accustomed to receiving direction without any opportunity to provide input.

Level 1

  • The organization is in the process of establishing internal guidelines and channels for encouraging diverse points of view about company/departmental decisions, so that anyone belonging to the organization can use them
  • Members of the organization share decision-making materials on officially sanctioned platforms, but those materials are the result of collaboration and agreement among a limited number of stakeholders
  • Some, but not all, leaders are open to receiving feedback and creating an environment where people feel safe providing it
  • Leaders maintain at least one clear and direct channel for organization members to share opinions constructively on some matters relevant to their work or about which they feel passionate about, but show passivity about understanding whether all members feel empowered and enabled to do so
  • Members of the organization share materials via private channels or discussions
  • Organization encourages leaders to be conscious of voices not present in dialog and to actively seek them out for inclusion

Level 2

  • The organization has already established internal guidelines and channels for encouraging and soliciting diverse points of view about company/departmental decisions, so that anyone belonging to the organization can use them; and expressly solicits such participation from parties that may be reluctant to do so
  • Members of the organization share decision-making materials on officially sanctioned platforms made accessible by default
  • Most leaders in the organization are open to receiving feedback and creating an environment where people feel safe providing it, and can demonstrate that protocols and procedures for participating in organization-wide discussions are collaborative
  • Members of the organization have the ability (through established channels and processes) to share opinions constructively on any matter relevant to their work or about which they feel passionate about, but whether all members feel empowered and enabled to do so is unclear
  • Leaders consistently demonstrate willingness to address and respond to feedback they've received, typically in a way that entire teams can see
  • Members of the organization share materials openly via multiple channels and methods for feedback; leaders use those channels themselves, and openly encourage others to use them
  • The organization provides specific resources (training programs, access to content, etc.) to help leaders to hone their strategies for forming inclusive teams

Level 3

  • The organization has established internal guidelines and channels for encouraging and soliciting diverse points of view on team or decisions, has aligned these with people's preferences for providing feedback, and has established a cross-functional team of organizational members to help maintain them
  • Members of the organization share decision-making materials on collaborative platforms that come with clear usage guidelines, and receive encouragement in using open technical standards in their work
  • Most leaders in the organization are open to receiving feedback and creating an environment where people feel safe providing it, and open feedback processes themselves to start discussions
  • Members feel empowered and enabled to share opinions constructively on any matter relevant to their work or about which they feel passionate
  • Members of the organization share materials openly via multiple channels and methods for feedback; leaders use those channels themselves, openly encourage others to use them, and maintain team-facing or public-facing records of the feedback they've received and/or the actions they've taken to address this feedback
  • The organization provides specific resources (training programs, access to content, etc.) to help both leaders and other team members hone their strategies for forming inclusive teams

Adaptability

In organizations that aren't open, responding to environmental conditions is difficult because centralized systems inhibit responsiveness and flexibility. Decision-making cannot keep pace with complex and shifting contexts. Information flows in predefined, linear, and often hierarchical directions, and power is centralized. As a result, people have difficulty sharing materials and providing valuable responses that could rapidly improve projects. They lack opportunities for empowerment, continuous learning, and the ability to engage in the kind of collective problem solving that produces innovative, nuanced solutions. People are afraid to fail because the organization discourages experimentation.

Level 1

  • Members of the organization share materials, but typically in a one-way, "read only" fashion
  • The organization routinely solicits feedback, but only from internal stakeholders
  • The organization provides opportunities for its members to learn about other aspects of the organization
  • Members of the organization feel like they somewhat understand the organization's goals, but might still have questions and are unsure where to find answers
  • The organization encourages participants to solve problems by working together, but doesn't provide clear frameworks or guidance to ensure that they can do so effectively
  • Failure is a frequent topic of discussion among team members, but dicussions of failure often involve blame

Level 2

  • Members of the organization share materials via methods that allow other members to modify those materials
  • The organization routinely solicits feedback, and promotes an obvious and accessible method for collecting it from both internal stakeholders and external parties
  • The organization provides opportunities for its members to learn about other aspects of the organization, and fosters continuous learning by offering programs and events
  • Members of the organization regularly discuss their roles in the organization's goals and strategies, as well as their progress on projects, key metrics, and performance indicators
  • The organization provides structured processes, clear frameworks and guidance for collective decision-making and problem-solving, and members use it regularly
  • Members understand that failure is an acceptable outcome of experimentation, and they create processes to regularly discuss failure and continously improve

Level 3

  • Members of the organization can share materials with external parties via methods that permit modification
  • The organization routinely solicits feedback, promotes an obvious and accessible method for collecting it from both internal stakeholders and external parties, and expressly allocates resources for managing and acting on it
  • The organization not only provides opportunities for its members to learn about other aspects of the organization, but also offers clear and structured processes and/or platforms for facilitating participation
  • Members of the organization regularly discuss their roles in the organization's goals and strategies—and their progress on projects, key metrics and performance indicators—while feeling comfortable addressing challenges without managerial oversight
  • The organization's decision-making and problem-solving frameworks and processes are collectively modifiable, and members feel comfortable adjusting their behaviors in response to changing conditions
  • Leaders cultivate a spirit of experimentation by spotlighting productive failures across the organization, and talk about their own failures as learning experiences

Collaboration

In organizations that aren't open, people tend to share the work they do only when asked for it. Conversations and joint efforts across departmental boundaries are difficult, even discouraged. As a result, projects move more slowly than they otherwise could. Work gets duplicated unnecessarily across teams working toward similar goals, and project outcomes do not reflect the best possible results. People are not aware of the ways that work from other groups can enhance their own efforts, and they tend to let predetermined descriptions of their responsibilities dictate the work they do.

Level 1

  • Members of the organization share work after initiating or completing projects
  • Cross-functional teams exist, but team roles are often unclear and governance structures are vague
  • Outcomes of collaborative efforts remain inside teams, and teams share these outcomes only upon request
  • Working groups and cross-functional teams tend to be static in terms of membership and skill sets
  • Teams infrequently revisit the outcomes of their collaborations
  • Members of the organization and teams collaborate but frequently say it's "too difficult" or "more trouble than it's worth"

Level 2

  • Members of the organization share work by initiating projects in group settings, in the earliest possible stages
  • Cross-functional teams are commonplace, and teams post their roles and goals publicly
  • Outcomes of collaborative efforts are available to the entire organization, and teams make these outcomes available by default
  • Working groups and cross-functional teams habitually seek diverse sets of viewpoints, members, experiences, and skills
  • Teams routinely discuss, revisit and debate the outcomes of their collaborative efforts
  • Members of the organization and teams actively seek opportunities to collaborate as a built-in or natural part of their planning

Level 3

  • Members of the organization share work by initiating projects in group settings, effectively connecting with additional project groups to form cross-functional teams
  • Cross-functional teams are commonplace and make their activities known broadly to the organization; in turn, the organization promotes best practices for working together
  • Outcomes of collaborative efforts are available across the organization and externally, and teams make these outcomes available by default
  • Working groups and cross-functional teams habitually seek diverse sets of viewpoints, members, experiences, and skills, and leverage this diversity effectively
  • Teams routinely discuss, revisit and debate the outcomes of their collaborative efforts, and share their learnings outside the organization
  • Members of the organization collaborate both internally and externally in ways that benefit all involved

Community

In organizations that aren't open, people tend to act primarily in the service of individual and team goals. Because people don't often share their work and may use different languages to interpret the organization's mission, teams often have difficulty aligning their work with a common purpose. As a result, duplicate work becomes common and stakeholder buy-in decreases (because people can't always determine who those stakeholders are). Consequently, people may begin to feel disassociated with the organization as a whole, leading to attrition.

Level 1

  • Some members of the organization unite to define values and principles, but are not clearly supported when they do
  • Members of the organization feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution, but only in familiar domains
  • People understand that the best ideas win, and leadership responsibilities accrue to people with histories of contribution and commitment
  • A common language for the organization is embryonic or partially formed, but not all organization members are fluent and gaining fluency requires individual effort

Level 2

  • Members of the organization collectively document shared visions and agreements like mission statements and codes of conduct, make them easily accessible, and reference them often
  • Members of the organization feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution; onboarding materials and orientation rituals provide adequate context for helping new members understand how the organization will benefit from their contributions
  • Leaders demonstrate dedication to the organization's shared values, and they model the behavior the organization has determined admirable when they help resolve conflicts or other issues
  • A common language for the organization is embryonic or partially formed, and members make efforts to explain/document jargon, acronyms, and inside jokes to each other—especially new members

Level 3

  • Shared values and principles inform decision-making, conflict resolution, and assessment processes among members of the organization, who reference these values and principles consistently in both verbal and written formats
  • The organization is proactive in telling members that it benefits from their contributions; as such, members demonstrate shared consciousness and empowered execution, and feel a sense of agency and responsibility to the community
  • Leaders understand that they grow by helping others grow, and they mentor junior members of the organization
  • A common language for the organization exists, such that members are not only fluent but can also articulate the organization's identity, formulate stories that attract new members, grow, and provide mentorship

Revision History

Version 1.0
Updated July 2017
The Open Organization Ambassadors at Opensource.com

License

Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International