os with the military

Esther Ewing eewing at inforamp.net
Fri May 28 03:51:44 PDT 1999

Birgitt and Virginia:

This is also Open Space at its best in terms of multi-disciplinary approach to
working as consultants. Well done each of you.


At 07:28 PM 5/27/99 -0400, you wrote:
>>We wish to share this story just to let you know that if Open Space can
>>so well with the military, and so well for such detailed work, that it can
>>work anywhere.
>>As some of you know, Virginia Burt (landscape architect specializing in
>>sacred spaces and healing gardens) and I, Birgitt Bolton, (organizational
>>learning consultant specializing in potential unlimited through Open Space)
>>have joined forces in a number of projects in which I (Birgitt)  facilitate
>>an Open Space Technology meeting (often preceded by a story telling
>>to engage a community group/stakeholder group/company in developing their
>>ideas for their landscape (yes, I mean physical landscape). And then
>>Virginia has considerable data from which to do the landscape design for
>>land, based on what the client group really wants, really has passion for.
>>We have learned a considerable amount about how well using Open Space
>>Technology delivers data detailed enough for a landscape architect to use
>>do her work. When I do the Open Space, I view myself as having two
>>"clients". The company and Virginia. If I have the Open Space set with the
>>right theme and have done a good job with both the organizational givens
>>the landscape givens, the data flows directly to that which Virginia needs.
>>The theme and givens are key. I view it as getting the "toboggan" going
>>the right hill. If I get the toboggan going down the wrong hill, we might
>>have a great meeting, but we won't get what Virginia needs to do her
>>This is Open Space at its best for product development or for planning.
>>Virginia and I will be presenting a paper about the magic that is possible
>>at the Canadian Council of Planners in Montreal Quebec in June. They are
>>very intrigued with the use of Open Space for detailed and prioritized
>>Anyhow, our client group this last time were the military. No
this was not
>>an open space to look at issues and opportunities for transforming the
>>military (alas) but for me it was the next best thing. The landscape to be
>>developed was 102 acres at one of their most important national
>>institutions. The open space took place while there was a gathering of
>>leading military officers from across the country which also meant that it
>>was a time of lots of military ceremonies on the site while we were there.
>>There were 60 people that took part in the Open Space. 7 generals, a
>>brigadier general, some colonel's, several commandants, etc, etc. Mostly
>>men, mostly older, many with education as engineers. Just the sort of mix
>>that I've heard tell Open Space will not work with. A few women in the mix,
>>a bit of age diversity with some younger cadets. Mostly people used to
>>command and control. Very steeped in being used to being obeyed.
>>We did a story telling evening prior to the open space. To honour the past
>>and present before looking at the future. The history of the land we were
>>looking at was so steeped in tradition, ceremony, history and memories that
>>conflict was expected as very differing passions abounded. I had been told
>>ahead that we would experience much conflict. For many,no change was
>>For others, they knew that survival depended on looking to the future. So,
>>after supper, I had these very dignified persons meet in a circle. And then
>>used process facilitation methods to do the storytelling. I placed a group
>>of my favourite stones in the centre of the circle, invited the
>>to choose a stone (which they each did) despite mumbles of touchy feely.
>>asked the individuals to look at the stone to see what it revealed to them
>>about their memories of the landscape. From this they each  were to tell
>>story to a partner, and then to the group as a whole. Everyone
>>Wonderful stories surfaced. No one dominated. And the stories continued
>>after the closing of  the circle. And the man we were told would be most
>>cantankerous spoke of his amazement at what had happenend. And how moved he
>>The following morning we opened the space. A lot of detail had to be given
>>because of the "givens" about the landscape and I had moments of
>>about information overload for the people. And then in the middle of
>>the four principles, there were three rounds that went off from a howitzer
>>(sp?). Explosive. I was walking the circle. The windows were open. And then
>>there was bagpipes playing. And I continued with the opening to these
>>background very military noises, opening space for the generals, the
>>colonels, etc. And the young people who make their declarations of
>>"unlimited liability" willing to give their lives for the country. And we
>>had a grand open space. Everyone participated fully. We had lots of
>>compliments about a wonderful day and a wonderful process. Virginia and I
>>even received hugs. There were excellent discussions. No conflict.
>>In one case, a topic went up that everyone thought was a sure thing to move
>>forward because it was the sort of thing that was traditional. It received
>>no votes. In another case, another topic was put up that had no one but the
>>leader attend the discussion. He wrote a report, with my encouragement and
>>when it came time to vote, it was one of the top vote getters. Much to his
>>amazement. Open Space at its best. Be prepared to be surprised.
>>Virginia received so much excellent data for her design that she will be
>>able to cater to the passions of the participants and thereby not have to
>>"sell" her design after the fact. The last design she did in this way
>>received unanimous approval. No rejections by a "planning committee" or a
>>design that was put on a shelf. It is being implemented. We are sure the
>>same will happen with this one. And this way of combining Open Space with
>>landscape architecture or any other planning or product development allows
>>Virginia to have a master plan ready for the client group 40 days from the
>>start of the process. No long waiting period for the client, but a plan
>>while passion is still running high.
>>Kindest regards,
>>Birgitt Bolton and Virginia Burt
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