Food safety

Harrison Owen owenhh at
Tue May 15 05:07:28 PDT 2001

At 09:26 PM 5/14/01 -0400, Birgitt wrote:
>Dear Anne,
>I think the topic of reports--their clarity to those who did not attend the
>session but would like a well done summary of what took place, as well as
>often time far reaching implications of what is included in the reports is
>of consequence within what we do with Open Space Technology meetings. I
>agree with Harrison in terms of getting the reports up on to the wall as
>quickly as possible and asking all to pay attention and to see their
>"recorder" if reports require changing before they make it into the book of
>proceedings. This is difficult regarding the reports entered at the end.
>There is also a problem when all in the group agree with the report but it
>has inaccuracies of the type you mention. This could be somewhat offset by
>how you develop and then communicate the "givens" for the meeting.

I find it very helpful to remind folks at the beginning, middle and end
about the "true" nature of the reports. They are much closer to "aide
d'memoire" (I think I screwed up my high school French) than what we
traditionally understand as "formal reports". I often stamp the reports in
large letters DRAFT -- just to make the point. If it turns out that folks
want something more finished -- that is a task best undertaken after the
Open Space. In short the reports (The Book) is a Work in Progress, the
purpose of which is to remind people (at the least) where they have been,
and what they might be looking forward to.

All of this seems to work in my experience, provided "the whole system" is
really in the room -- or at least a much of it as was humanly possible. The
reports then are no longer documents designed to inform people who were not
there (primarily) but rather "memory jogs" for the folks who were there.
Adding that wonderful word DRAFT serves to make the point. Indeed a short
note to that effect in the introduction is often helpful, because of course
you must assume that the Reports will find their way into the hands of
those who were not present.

Birgitt raises an important point about folks "not agreeing" with all the
details in the report. Over the long haul, this is not a problem, provided
it is under stood that it is all a Work In Progress -- but there can be a
difficulty when it comes to prioritizing and convergence at the end of Open
Space. The way I handle this is to suggest that folks "vote" for the title,
and use the discussion merely for purposes of definition. Thus if you think
the issue, as stated by the title and defined (generally) by the
discussion, is "important" -- it is worthy of your vote even if you totally
disagree with the content of the discussion.

I guess the real point is that it is the people that are important, and not
the reports. I understand that in many organization ":IT" (whatever "IT"
is) simply doesn't exist until it shows up in the "official report". This
is a place where I think Open Space can make a solid blow for freedom. So
it is my practice to suggest that at the end of the Open Space -- Don't
forward the Reports for further discussion (usually by the
Management/Executive Committee which is typically a black hole from which
nothing useful ever escapes) -- Invite the people who cared, and whoever
else chooses to join them to make that critical presentation. Not
incidentally, this makes it quite clear that Open Space doesn't stop with
the closing circle.


Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854 USA
phone 301-469-9269
fax 301-983-9314
Open Space Training
Open Space Institute
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