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Management lessons from Red Hat's CEO

Red Hat's CEO wants to focus on a few key initiatives for the company which will arguably keep it from engaging in applications anytime soon.

As the former COO at Delta Air Lines during its bankruptcy proceedings, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst knows something about making tough choices in the executive chair. His voice is worth hearing as we continue to swim through one of the worst economic economic crises in the history of the United States.

In an interview with the E-Commerce Times, Whitehurst outlines a few of his guiding management principles, but one struck me as particularly useful in understanding where Red Hat's product strategy could be going:

The key to steering a company past difficult obstacles is to focus on a few initiatives. "A key lesson, that I think is really important and really hard for business leaders to do, is to prioritize and pick two or three things and knock the cover off the ball. You see it over and over and over again where companies try to do too much."

I read this to suggest that it's unlikely Red Hat is going to be straying too far from its infrastructure roots in the near term. While the company has been experimenting with various programs for engaging the open-source ISV community like RHX, it's unlikely that Red Hat itself will be entering the application fray in earnest anytime soon. With JBoss significantly outpacing RHEL sales, perhaps this will change, but not during the downturn.

For the foreseeable future, watch for Red Hat to double down on its existing investments and, once those carry it through this recession, turn up the heat on its competition by aggressively moving beyond core infrastructure offerings.