OST with Armed Forces
chris at chriscorrigan.com
Wed May 9 23:44:45 PDT 2007
I've recently been working with several people individuals who have all been
former military personnel in the United States Army, Air Force and Marines.
We have talked often about the role of conversation in carrying out military
work. The best story I heard came from a former US Army Captain who was in
command of 25 Lieutenants during the Vietnam war. As he was learning about
Open Space he told me he had done something very much like Open Space in the
jungle during the war. This man's job - his name is John - was to take
orders from the higher command and translate them into field manoeuvers.
After getting it wrong twice, meaning that two platoons he sent out didn't
come back, he decided that he had to try a different approach to executing
orders. He told me that he shifted his style. When he got an order, he
gathered his 25 lieutenants together and they had a serious, focussed and
open conversation about how to execute those orders. After they had
generated a number of options, they choose the course of action that seemed
both least risky and best chance for success, not an easy thing to balance.
Although it sounds like a pretty standard planning exercise he said that the
only other time he had felt the same quality of conversation was in the Open
Space events we were running at his workplace. It actually reminded him of
how important those circles had been in the jungle
It seems that when life is on the line - both yours and your "enemy's" - the
wise thing to do is open a little space. If it works there, in actual
combat situations, it says something about the rest of the challenges life
throws at us.
For what it's worth, I echo the sentiment that others have noted here that
folks who are in the military and police are generally more frank and
truthful and "action oriented" than the average citizen, and they value good
conversation before undertaking important jobs. They are deeply familiar
with the consequences of bad planning and an inability to find clarity with
one another. They might tend to operate on faster time cycles than the rest
of us too, but that doesn't mean they can't slow into the reflective pace of
a nice juicy open space.
Also I have heard Birgitt Williams tell the story of her Open Space at the
Royal Military College here in Canada a number of years ago, during which
the sponsor, the commanding officer, noted that "democracy ends at 5pm!"
Perhaps Birgitt will weigh in on this story. It's a really good one about
control, hierarchy and where smart ideas really come from.
On 5/9/07, Kerry <k at napuk.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> We did an event on police and the black community in Glasgow in 2000
> with 47 people, which was the first formal dialogue between police from
> superintendent to constables on the street and activists.
> Good luck with your event.
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