Chef Cooks Up a Management Stew

September 24, 2019

What happens when a programmer deletes open source software? The answer is to cancel a contract with the US government.

Information about this interesting not-so-passive resistance moment surfaced on the Chef blog. Barry Crist allegedly wrote:

While I and others privately opposed this and various other related policies, we did not take a position despite the recommendation of many of our employees.  I apologize for this. I had hoped that traditional political checks and balances would provide remedy and that our relationship with our various government customers could avoid getting intermingled with these policies.  However, it is clear that checks and balances have not provided relief to the fundamental issues of the policies in question. Chef, as well as other companies, can take stronger positions against these policies that violate basic human rights.  Over the past year, many of our employees have constructively advocated for a change in our position, and I want to thank them.

The fix?

Do not renew the US government contracts. Donate money to groups “that help vulnerable people impacted by the policy of family separation and detention.”

Vice describes the employee’s deleting code and the Chef decision to dump US government contracts this way:

a ballooning activism community within tech companies and the broader tech community.

DarkCyber finds the employee push back interesting for several reasons:

  1. The failure of management to manage is a characteristic of a number of technology-centric firms
  2. Employee activism can derail a company’s business processes
  3. The push back appears at this point in time a function associated with educated professionals.

Without a resolution, will US government agencies turn to non-US companies to provide needed software and systems?

Will employees demand a say in what a commercial enterprise does to generate revenue to pay those who work for the organization?

Will stakeholders tolerate intentional erosion of revenues because employees can destroy or possibly corrupt data, software, and systems because of a personal perception about rightness?

Will the digital Druckers at Gartner, Gerson Lehrman, and Booz Allen offer advice which solves this management puzzle?

Without organization and span of control, work at some firms may be difficult to complete in a satisfactory manner. Getting paid to do work was a contract. An employee does this task and gets paid. If the employee does not do the work or destroys that work, the contract is broken.

Then what?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2019


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