Open Space w/small groups

Thu May 28 10:43:36 PDT 1998

Harrison has done one OS with a group of 5 when the rest of a larger group was
unable to get to the site due to a snowstorm.  He says it worked fine.

I believe you can have a productive and valuable session with your 10 senior
managers if you have:
  (1) an issue that truly engages the managers,
  (2) a need - preferably a critical need - for immediate decisions and/or actions of
which they feel competent, and
  (3) an atmosphere relatively free of significant interpersonal power issues.

What you MAY lose with a small group is (1) diversity - especially ideas at the
edges - and (2) commitment - if the small group is planning for a larger group's
implementation.  OS is one way for "getting the whole system into the room."  If the
10 senior managers are the "whole system" with respect to the issue(s) that they
will be addressing, they are sufficient under both criteria.  On the other hand we
should remember Margaret Mead's dictum about the effectiveness of a small
group.  And continue to hold before us that "whatever happens if the only thing that
could have happened."

One other consideration: It may be more difficult for you to "disappear into the
background" if you are 10% of the people in the room.  When you constitute 1% or
fewer you may hope to get the sort of reaction Harrison reports getting at the end
of one of his sessions: "Who are you?"  Geoff Bellman argues that it's important in
any intervention, but it seems particularly so in OS that we be able to "get out of
the way."  This is especially difficult, I think, for internal consultants and may be
even more difficult if the consultant is at about the same "level" of the organization
as the client group.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bert Elliott <AVELLIOT at>
To: osi at <osi at>
Date: Tuesday, May 26, 1998 3:43 PM
Subject: Open Space

>To: OSI     --INTERNET osi at
>I just read Open Space Technology and am really excited about using it. I
>an opportunity soon with a group of about 10 senior managers. Any advice
>using it with small groups. The book references large groups in most cases.
>Bert Elliott
>Program Administrator
>Staff Development and Training (952-2334)

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