OS and "What are managers and consultants good for?" AW: small issues - other methods

Harrison Owen owenhh at mindspring.com
Wed Feb 21 07:30:04 PST 2001

Great conversation! Moving right to the heart of lots of issues all of us 
face, and I am sure will continue to face.

>Artur wrote:
>Reading about other "large group methods" the first thing that comes to
>my mind is that with some of those methods
>- managers will feel less afraid and
>- consultants will seam to do a complex/expert thing that seams (to
>clients? to themselves?) to justify the fee they ask for...
>When clients pay a consultant they are paying an "expert" that will
>do "some work" for them. "Doing nothing with elegance" - is that
>payable by a client as consultancy?
>Admitting that it is not (or at least that it is difficult) how can we
>the "expert role" that is so valued in our society? Combining OS with
>other tools, methods or "specialised knowledge"? Concentrating
>in training instead of consultancy? (a trainer is always an "expert"
>by definition - if he "does nothing with elegance" he can always claim
>(or be understood by others) as a specialist in "non directive training
>Does this make any sense to others?
>Hello Artur, it makes a lot of sense to me. I once had folks from one
>business unit in a problem solving exercise. Obviously they did very well
>their boss being absent. When the group realized its success, the manager
>turned up and somebody stated ironically: "Hey, we have done very well
>without him, what is he actually good for?"
>Sometimes I get the impression there are managers out there, who create the
>problems they are working hard and long hours to solve. For them OS is a
>threat. So what are the consultants good for? I am sure it´s also my mission
>to convince managers that it is good for them if they let people go and
>forget about managing. Maybe this is what I am getting paid for. What do you
>think out there in open cyberspace?
>Greetings from Berlin - Hape


Not a doubt about it. Things do get out of control in Open Space. And if 
they don't, something is radically wrong.  All of which is a definite pain 
to those who think (suppose, hope, expect to be) in charge. Generally 
speaking, such people Do not want to go there ! And for good reason -- 
their professional image is at risk as well as their salary, organizational 
status, hopes for advancement -- and probably some other things. And for us 
who consider ourselves as consultants -- there is a definite, usually 
painful, mind-twist as well. particularly if we come from a notion of 
consultancy where The Expert rules. As Artur points out -- Doing nothing 
with elegance is a questionable "billable." How could you possibly charge 
for doing nothing?

What to do?

We could try to sell harder. But my experience is that selling Open Space 
is rather like teaching a pig to sing. It annoys the pig and sounds 
terrible. And the reason is simple. For those who come with an 
understanding of management, organizations, and systems in general, as 
things which are created by us and therefore under our control -- the plain 
fact of the matter is that there is absolutely no logical connection 
between their position and the experience of Open Space. From their point 
of view, it is at best counter-intuitive which is usually just a polite way 
of saying it is wrong, crazy, and bad. Not to be taken seriously. The fact 
that we all know that Space has been opened thousands of times all over the 
world for all sorts of people with predictable and comparable results -- in 
short this is not a new, risky, untried approach -- just doesn't cut it. 
What we have here is a classic case of differing paradigms, and therefore 
the possibility/necessity of paradigm shift. Folks with differing paradigms 
simply do not see the world in the same way. What makes sense to one is 
idiocy to the other.

Well, we could try opening space in some safe places -- read 
inconsequential. Good idea -- we certainly wouldn't want to use Open Space 
in some area that really mattered, that people cared about. Like the future 
of their business or organization. But the strategy comes back to bite us. 
'Cause we know as a matter of first principles that Open Space only seems 
to work when people really do care. Demonstrating Open Space in a nice, 
safe corner of the organizational environment typically elicits a response 
like -- "Is that all there is?" Or maybe, "That's nice."

So what do you think we ought to be doing?


Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854 USA
phone 301-469-9269
fax 301-983-9314
Open Space Training www.openspaceworld.com
Open Space Institute www.openspaceworld.org
Personal website www.mindspring.com/~owenhh

To subscribe, unsubscribe, change your options,
view the archives of oslist at listserv.boisestate.edu
Visit: http://listserv.boisestate.edu/archives/oslist.html

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.openspacetech.org/pipermail/oslist-openspacetech.org/attachments/20010221/324ce67a/attachment-0017.htm>

More information about the OSList mailing list