Major downsizing

Averbuch averbuch at
Mon May 14 00:24:08 PDT 2001

Dear Thomas,

        I think you are up to a very important role of opening space and
personal and organizational uncertainty.

        My name is Tova Averbuch and I am an OD consultant in Israel for the
last 25 years. In 1999 I
participated in Harrison Owen's training in Washington and I would like to
share with you my first open space facilitation experience (I had done with
a colleague,Eli Nir) because there is some resonance between the two
I apologies if I'll have to be little bit lengthy with the description:

        The organization I am opened a space for is a government state-wide
service giver of informal education to youth that flank school. We were
asked to open space for the question : "how can we integrate our work
processes to better serve our youth (clients)?" the service was comprised
from two main service domains:
1/ schooling (done by teachers  tailor for each student)
2/ Therapy and life coaching (done by social workers)
Most (2/3of the people) were on government parole and  the rest were
employed by a privet service giver.
one of the reasons the sponsor wanted  to have the space open was to better
the contact between  people from those two systems as a way to better
integrated service.
the design was :
*    4  OS of  1 day (7 hours) each . One every 6 weeks.
*     A steering comity work in between meetings to share, plan, evaluate,
*     and assignments people crated to do between sessions
*    + 2 one day sessions of implementation planning.

     day 1:
   The people in this organization were cynical to the idea that something
can change. Their working energies were very low and ambivalent. Never the
less the miracle of OST worked !!! The first meeting (day) of OS was a blast
of energy and a joy for the people to get to know one another better and
create ideas together. By the end of the day they were looking forward to
the possibility of yes, having some influence about how things may tern out,
the Joining was high ,conflict issues were avoyded.

     day 2-3:
    The relationship of distrust and fears of the government taking a
deferent privet service giver come about. One third of the people (20 out of
60) were afraid to loose their jobs if the negotiation will tern sour this
year. There was a sense of betrayal in the air :" why are we talking about
service integration if we are not sure we will stay together". I felt it
The question whether to stop the OS meetings series rises. both from the
sponser and from us.

    day 4 :
    Continued with the OS for integrated work and it took two interesting
1/ forming a legacy of our combined knowledge ( for us to follow  or for
others to follow)
2/ angry and anxies coversations about the future between the parties with
dialogue between people who make the negotiation desitions (outside the
room) and people who bare the consequences.

"the end":
the government did choose a    n e w    privet service giver ....
but all the employs sustained their jobs and are now working for the new
service giver because they proved to be very good professionally and
motivated to give excellent service under any hospices.

My thinking and experience that you may consider:
1/ OST always realyses energy even when the stating point is uncertainty
people have the longing to regain some sense of influence over their lives
and see if there is something they can do to better it.
2/The work with the steering comity (12 people representing diversity) was
crucial for path finding and decision making and helpful for the
organization in tackling the tuff issues both in the room and in their life
( negotiation) outside of the room.


*I defiantly think you should have OS on the future of the organization and
the field in their area!
* More than one OS , to enable workl and containing along this time of
(I personally believe that their leadership may change their life in a way
to be surprised of)
*steering comity are your partners in a very deep way.

all the best to you
I hope this helps
and thank you for pulling my story out

Much love

Tova Averbuch' Israel

----- Original Message -----
From: Thomas Herrmann <thomas.herrmann at TELIA.COM>
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2001 1:49 PM
Subject: Major downsizing

> Hi list-friends.
> A client of mine has planned to hold a 2-day OST with all 170 staff, in
> june, the last days before they all go for summervacation. The theme was
> concern the future of their school (working with "adult learning"). They
> in the process of changing from public funding to "free market
> 5 public schools will be in a corporation owned by the municipality. Now
> seems that they will loose a lot of the courses they have given before and
> face serious downsizing. The circumstances will be made clear the coming
> days. The headmaster believes that maybe 50 out of a total 170 persons on
> his school will have to leave. It is likely that there will be some
> reorganizations between the 5 schools serving different local areas. They
> probably all face lay offs.
> It seems pretty clear that a OST conference on the future of the school is
> not suitable as a lot of the people coming would not be inspired to plan
> something they may not even be part of. But they do have a need to
> communicate and support each other though this. I think OST would still be
> suitable but I guess the theme should focus on the issue which is
> concern right now. I promised to make some research on experiences in
> similair situations. I would very much appreciate if you would like to
> share!!
> Greetings from sunny Sweden (summer is coming over here)
> Thomas Herrmann      Phone +46 (0)709-98 97 81
> Open Space Consulting
> Pensévägen 4
> 434 46 Kungsbacka, Sweden
> Email: thomas.herrmann at
> Medlem i BNI - nätverk för affärer (
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