FLOSS: Reactive Cubed
Open source, of FLOSS, exists largely as a result of Microsoft losing focus and being seen as a threat by the IT industry. FLOSS generally is perceived to be the anti-Microsoft. Being anti-something is being defined by it, and that is reactive. By focusing in this way, it tends to lose track of those same customers Microsoft lost and, much like the other examples, can do more damage to itself than the FLOSS leadership likely realizes. In the latest instance, with TomTom, the FLOSS leaders seem to be actually trying to declare war on Microsoft, which apparently has no real interest yet in going to war with FLOSS. But, with the current economic conditions, were Microsoft to determine war was inevitable, this would be the perfect time to wage it.
The reason Microsoft hasn't escalated is not that Microsoft is weak. On the contrary, it still has one of the most enviable battle chests in the industry. But the company finally understood that its customers and a number of governments would punish the firm financially if it didn't interoperate and cooperate better. If it is seen as the party acting defensively, things could change a lot.
Strategically, FLOSS should be downplaying and eliminating risk. Instead, much of the leadership appears to be using the TomTom event to highlight risk and doing nothing to mitigate it. While this may seem rather strange, it is typical of a reactive management style: Microsoft moves, FLOSS reacts. The danger for FLOSS is that they have effectively given up control to Microsoft, though I'll bet neither side has yet realized this.
The environment and competition are always part of a good plan, but neither the environment nor competition should drive the plan. If it does, the entity is being driven by events and not by management. The result is seldom positive. Examples of this reactive behavior are very common and range from companies to politics, but always should be avoided because, in the end, they lead to failure. Proactive management spends time defining the goal and then focuses like a laser on it and steers a steady course; reactive management over-focuses on events and appears to weave like a drunken sailor. Obama's campaign was a good example of proactive management, McCain's reactive.
FLOSS is built on a reactive model, Sun went from being proactive in the '80s to largely reactive in the '90s, and Microsoft's biggest failure, its response to Netscape, was the result of reactive thinking. If you want to avoid this problem, spend time refining the goal, make sure policies and practices tie to that core goal, and never lose sight of either. If you see a situation where the goal appears to be lost, or where it seems to shift with every external event, run and don't look back.
Right now we seem to be awash in reactive management styles. I don't see that as a good thing.