Opening a small space....a very small space.

Keith Jaymee KeithJ at WSDOT.WA.GOV
Fri May 8 11:05:40 PDT 1998

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your experience.  How affirming it must
have been to see the principles work even under adverse conditions.  I
say bully for you and for all the participants!
Jaymee Keith

Fanatacism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten
your aim.
     George Santayana

>From:  Michelle Cooper[SMTP:coopgrp at INTERLYNX.NET]
>Sent:  Friday, May 08, 1998 8:45 AM
>Subject:       Opening a small space....a very small space.
>I thought that I would share my experience this week opening a small space.
> I had planned a 4 hour open space with a client to enable consultation
>with staff of the organization about the issues and  opportunities for
>introducing a new program to their scope of services.
>I had learned in my initial  visit to the organization that relations
>between the management team and the office staff were strained because of
>recent layoffs.  The unionized staff had taken to adopting rebellious
>actions and there was difficulty communicating.  While there was general
>agreement about the need to add the new services, there was great concern
>that the success of the program would be compromised if the office staff
>decided to place obstacles in the path.  We decided together to use open
>space to give staff opportunity to get their issues and suggestions on the
>table in a safe environment.
>I arrived to find that the OS meeting had been bumped from the large room
>by another conflicting event.  The substitute room that was assigned was a
>board room that had a massive table in it (that I think the room was
>constructed around).  They had forgotten what I had told them about the
>room set up.  The only suitable room was very small... and very hot.  The
>circle of chairs for the 20 expected attendees filled the entire room.  I
>had great angst about how this might all work out, especially as I am a
>novice practitioner.  However, I proceeded and stuck to the principles.  As
>people gathered, there was great tension in the room.  While the numbers
>were small (in this case, thankfully), each category of staff was
>represented in the circle.
>I stated the theme and discussed the principles and law.  I acknowledged
>the space issue under the heading of "Whatever happens is the only thing
>that could have".  It was difficult to walk the circle, let alone work
>clockwise or counterclockwise. A few steps and I had covered most of the
>distance.  If I walked too quickly, I thought that I might become a
>whirling Dervish!  When people were invited to put their issues and
>opportunities forward,  the pregnant pause felt like it lasted 9 months.
> One member of the group was so anxious that she started to suggest ideas
>to others.  The group did not respond.  Instead, they asked questions.  The
>group got into the spirit by asking the person with the question to post it
>as an issue.  They did end up posting 10 issues or opportunities once they
>got started.  The energy levels rose dramatically as the marketplace opened
>and people negotiated times and places.  The hurried off to their breakout
>rooms and the energy and laughter coming from the rooms was marvelous.  We
>had set up an adjacent office with three computers as a newsroom and whole
>groups stood at the computer to help with data entry.  There was great
>discussion that happened in the newsroom too.  The bulletin board for
>posting reports was in a connecting hallway near the refreshments and
>outside the door of the main room.  The reports were very rich.
>About half-way through the session, the Executive Director came to me to
>say how marvelous the process was (she had not helped to plan the session,
>but attended as a participant).  She stated that she wanted to talk to me
>at my nest visit about having another meeting with all staff.
>The "talking stick" used in the closing circle was a candle.  It seemed
>appropriate because the meeting had been about enlightenment.  Some of the
>words people used to describe their experience were: all encompassing,
>empowerment, we didn't fight, freedom of speech, fun, a sense of
>togetherness, and marvel at what had been accomplished in such a short
>time.  They acknowledged that had all of those issues been on the agenda of
>their traditional meetings, they would have met more than ten times over
>ten weeks.
>While the information that came from the reports more than met
>expectations, the palpable side effect of the meeting was a sense of
>healing of relationships.  The tension that had been present in the
>beginning was replaced with laughter and support.  Many of the participants
>came to me the next day to say how much they had enjoyed the meeting and
>how successful that they thought it was.  The group decided that we should
>leave the reports posted for the rest of the office staff the next day.
> People were invited to add comments or ask questions, so the discussions
>will continue.  A group will be formed immediately from the participants to
>be in charge of communication to their colleagues about the ongoing
>developments as the program evolves, a suggestion in one of the reports.
>My learning was that despite the glitches in structure, honoring the
>principles and process of OST enabled the group to transcend the obstacles
>and achieve surprising results.

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