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Decisions made by individuals or a relatively small group of committed people within the OpenMRS community over the years has led to incredible growth. As a result of this growth, more people are taking on a variety of tasks or projects, which are increasingly distributed among small groups, local communities, or even teams set up by implementing partners. Although these individuals and groups often seek community input in a variety of ways, some decisions now happen rapidly at the local implementation setting. In some instances, these decisions make contributing back to OpenMRS and collaborating with other implementations more challenging. When it comes to collaborating across implementations, the ability to make rapid, informed decisions using the current model has diminished as the community’s size and reach expands. Over time, newcomers find it increasingly difficult to ascertain community decision making processes and authority.

OpenMRS has made some key adjustments to the OpenMRS decision making model in an effort to provide smaller teams with the overall guidance they may seek from the larger OpenMRS community while simultaneously respecting a) the authority of small groups to create and act autonomously, and b) the community’s values of openness and inclusivity.

The OpenMRS Decision Making Playbook is a series of decision making guidelines or “plays” that individuals, small groups or teams, and the community at large can follow. We expect that using these “plays” will result in transparent decisions that reflect our community’s values. The playbook includes examples that show how an individual or a group within the community can practically apply the different “plays.”

Play #1: Encourage open exchange and participation

Play #2: Make decisions transparently

Play #3: Share early, often, and widely to expand adoption

Play #4: Use community-centric channels

Play #5: Reward commitment with decision making authority


Play #1: Encourage open exchange and participation 

Great ideas and solutions emerge when we are free to share ideas, exchange experiences, and learn from each other. A safe, open environment where anybody is welcome to participate in any discussion is critical to innovation and collaboration, leading to decisions that are more likely to be successful across the community.

Making the play

  • Post your problem and possible approaches on our community forum (Talk)
  • Invite diverse perspectives (geographical, distributions, age, gender, etc)
  • Figure out who might have something to say about your problem, your solution, or your question and intentionally engage them in the discussion
  • Reach out to others in the community who have worked on similar issues - especially those who may have a divergent point of view
  • Be specific about the kind of feedback you would like and how
  • Identify champions who can help spread the word about what you are working on and engage others in the discussion
  • If you have a difference in perspective, explain why and consider offering an alternative solution or approach.

Play #2: Make decisions transparently

Decisions are often a result of sharing experiences and information, discussion, reflection, and debate - all of which comes along with open exchange and active participation. Being transparent about what led to a decision helps others see that their perspective was understood and considered. As a result, people are more likely to accept and support a decision - even in situations when they do not agree with the decision that is made. 

Making the play 

  • Summarize key points from real-time chats or meetings and post them on Talk or on the relevant Wiki page
  • Be upfront with your timeframe for making a decision that allows time for diverse participation in discussion
  • Publish the decision on Talk and the Wiki, along with any factors, business requirements, or other information/research that was taken into consideration.

Play #3: Share early, often, and widely to expand adoption

Frequent sharing early on invites broader participation from the outset. It allows others within the community to join in when they share the same problem and have ideas or learned lessons about a proposed approach. This can lead to richer discussions, more information, and smarter decisions that can be adopted by the community more quickly. Decisions can also have different spheres of impact. Some will only really interest or affect a few people or implementations. Others may cause a ripple effect far and wide. Releasing discussion and decision points early and often will allow multiple opportunities for the OpenMRS community to give feedback and make iterative changes. 

Making the play

  • Post a question, the problem that you are trying to solve, or an approach you’d like to take early on
  • Periodically provide updates via Talk, the OpenMRS blog, newsletters, Town Halls, etc.
  • Monitor or assess discussions and identify when questions or issues arise that will benefit from broader community discussion and input.
  • Reach out to specific groups or teams in the community (i.e: PM team, Strategy and Operations team) when you are working through a decision and want their input

Play #4: Use community-centric channels  

There are many channels available to us to communicate with each other: Talk, uberconference, IRC/Slack, the Wiki, the OpenMRS blog, and more. When discussion and the rationale for a decision can be easily found in any of these public, community spaces, it’s easier for anyone and everyone to follow and understand what was discussed, the decision that was taken, and the rationale for a particular decision. The OpenMRS community encourages wide participation in discussions and transparently make decisions by using community-centric channels, such as our Wiki and blog, Talk, IRC and Slack. 

Making the play

  • When kicking off a discussion, carefully consider which channel you and the group you collaborate with will use and when. 
  • Once you’ve made your choice, provide easy ways for everyone in the community to find and participate in related discussions and documented decisions. 
  • Make a plan for how you will use Talk, IRC or Slack, and meetings
  • Offer ways for people to contribute in written form and verbally, in a group setting or one-on-one 
  • Set up a Wiki page with links to the specific community channels used to share information and have discussions

Play #5: Reward commitment with decision making authority.

In a decision making environment where engagement in discussion is active, open, and transparent, a good idea can come from anyone, anywhere. This inspires people to participate and participate often. We learn who to go to with questions or challenges. When people are committed to working hard and making strong contributions to our community over time, they earn our trust and respect. 

Making the play

  • Individual contributors have the authority to make individual level decisions as they see fit. 
  • When people contribute regularly to core or a project, recognize their knowledge and experience by nominating them for a decision-making role within a specific project, objective, or area.
  • Be transparent about who has decision making authority by publicly acknowledging their role as decision makers
  • Decision making authority for a given scope resides with the individual or group that accepts that scope.
  • When decisions span areas that fall within the scope of other community members, teams/squads, or groups, the individual or squad/team will consult with or refer the decision to the relevant entity.