Open Space and TQM

Michelle Cooper coopgrp at
Thu Aug 19 19:44:49 PDT 1999

Hello Agneta:

I am just in the midst of helping a consortium of not-for-profit health care organizations develop customized CQI (TQM) programs.  As I have gone through the process, I have asked myself on several occasions how I might use open space in the program development and implementation.  I have been using process facilitation methods (those taught by Birgitt in her process facilitation workshops) that are congruent with the philosophy and spirit of open space, but did not use OS yet. 

In reflection back on the project, I think that OST would work well at several points:
* Consultation with stakeholders about what is quality from their perspective and what are the most important aspects of care or service at the outset of the program. 
* Problem solving quality issues and performance improvement strategies where there is a difficult, conflicted or complex problem in place of traditional process flow charts, fish-bone diagrams etc.

Most of the organizations have not had exposure to or training in open space (although I am trying to remedy that :-)) The pilot organization does have a person who has recently completed OS facilitator training.  Our meeting in September will be held in open space as we consider the issues and opportunities for implementing the CQI program organization-wide.  I think that this organization is likely to use open space in problem solving on an ongoing basis.

The more I use open space, the more I seek opportunities to use it where I have been using more traditional or structured methods.  I think that OS will work with TQM when any of the conditions are present that Harrison and others have described e.g., Any organizational situation in which there is:
* A real issue of concern
* Diversity of players
* Complexity of elements
* Presence of passion 
* Decision time is now

In particular, I think OST may help organizations to integrate TQM/CQI as a way of doing business earlier if stakeholders are engaged early, have their passions aroused and take responsibility for leading some of the development and implementation of the system.
Good luck!

Michelle Cooper, RN, MScN
The Cooper Group Consultants
200 Crestview  Avenue
Ancaster, Ontario
Canada L9G1E2  
Telephone -     (905) 648- 4633
Fax -           (905) 648-1763
E-mail          coopgrp at

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