[OSList] Incorporating self-organized training/learning sessions into OST AND communicating OST to an uninitiated and distracted leadership

Lisa Heft lisaheft at openingspace.net
Thu Jan 24 08:43:51 PST 2013

Hi, Tricia - as for any facilitated process or meeting objective -  
your explaining what it is for, giving people any information they  
need in order to then get together and do the work - involves not just  
the days of the meeting, but also the conversations, messaging,  
invitation language, understanding of how this fits into what will  
happen just before and after - it's all part of the full ecology of  
the event, as it were.
So if you want people to actively use it to teach each other in hands- 
on learning and skills-transfer for current projects, maybe you want  
to make it all about that, and articulate that in your / your client's  
messaging to the participants before the retreat. Zone in on the key  
objective and useful / realistic reason for this meeting.

If strategic direction or sustained focus are not part of this  
organization's culture, yet another reason to give them some clear,  
useful time for a specific task (skills-transfer and hands-on learning  
about their different projects.
And if it's about skills-transfer and learning - why do you need to  
add action planning or having people commit to tasks? Especially if  
this is not what they might follow-through on 'in the real world'? Or  
am I not understanding something.

If you want them to generate learning and ideas and such - it is often  
good - if you then want them to reflect on what they have learned and  
shared - and take a moment to reflect on it, internalize it - *before*  
you have them shift from emergent / divergent thinking (Open Space  
participant-driven topics) into the more convergent thinking such as  
pattern-seeking, identifying next steps, and so on. So you may either  
want to separate the action / next steps part to a time after they  
complete and rest from their highly-stimulating Open Space meeting -  
so minds and bodies have more freshness and ability to notice things -  
and have time to read their Book of Proceedings (either in the last  
part of the event or at their desks, receiving the Book a few days  
post-event) - and so they can make better clearer decisions having all  
that data and integration of experience to draw from.
Or you can complete the Open Space, with closure. Then use any kind of  
action planning design to help folks see patterns and feel where they  
would like to engage on projects or tasks post-event.

If you choose to do action planning in an Open Space way - or in any  
way, for that matter - I'd say be sure - before you design in action  
planning or next-steps identification as part of a meeting - that a  
majority of participants in the meeting have the resources,  
information, mobility (outside of their organizational roles), time,  
support from the organization, freedom to name and champion a task in  
spite of their role, communication within the organization to ask for  
support / share news about success and challenges, and so on.  
Otherwise (again: Open Space or any other process) you are asking for  
something that is not as realistic and doable 'on Monday'. In which  
case you might want to close - after people share thoughts and  
reflections in Closing Circle - by having each individual write on a  
card the one thing they feel they will commit - for themselves, in  
their own realm of influence and work environment - to apply to their  
work 'on Monday'.

Or something like that. If there is organizational support for  
effectiveness and if truly each person can influence what their own  
tasks and resources can be.

Otherwise, you can simply make it all about learning-exchange, be sure  
to include in the process the documentation component (the participant- 
created notes that are compiled into a Book of Proceedings and sent  
back out to them during or soon after the event - so they can share  
the learning across topics and discussion groups by reading all this  
after their meeting), and give those folks an amazing opportunity to  
teach and share and explore - in a way that - as you mention, the  
principals of the organization are really attached to (and therefore  
may support).

Just some ideas,


On Jan 24, 2013, at 7:46 AM, Tricia Chirumbole wrote:

> Thanks Lisa, Harrison, and Hege!
> I am totally looking forward to jumping in, but you have sniffed out  
> a tendency in me Harrison - I can be a complication ninja!
> That being said, my impulse and desire is for 2.5 days with one  
> topic and I will propose this with all fingers crossed.
> My consideration of a second prompt focused on learning and training  
> sessions is motivated by the fact that the principles seem pretty  
> attached to the idea of the group engaging in specific skill  
> transfer sessions and peer support for active projects.
> With two prompts, they could address current needs and perhaps get  
> some members to a place where they can start taking on new types of  
> tasks asap, while also addressing the concept of ongoing  
> collaboration and competency development.
> There definitely are bottlenecks based on silos of skill (usually  
> within one or two people), so I can understand the urgency there and  
> agree.
> One of the main questions I still have is: What experiences does the  
> group have with participants actually "getting to work" in sessions,  
> versus engaging in dialogue and planning? And, does it  somehow  
> dissolve some of the impact of the self-organizing if a prompt were  
> to specifically encourage, if not require, that sessions could  
> include hands on learning and skill transfer?
> I believe it can make sense within an Open Space environment and I  
> can imagine that it could "spontaneously" occur, but I also wonder  
> if it can be as effective if you let people know that they can bring  
> out there work tools and training hats - perhaps I am just a closet  
> control freak :/ But also trying to respond to the leaders' stated  
> intent.
> In response to Lisa's question about "distracted leadership": This  
> means that all of the four principles - 2 in US - are overworked and  
> over-traveled on a regular basis. Additionally, it means that they  
> are performing almost all roles within the organization  
> simultaneously, from executing field work, to business development,  
> to all the C-level functions. Also fairly typical for a small  
> business.
> As I'm sure you can guess, this dynamic means there is little  
> bandwidth for charting and maintaining strategic direction, or for  
> sustained focus on HR development.
> In response to Lisa's other query, about "meeting the org where they  
> are" - I may not be. I recognize from past efforts that they are not  
> ready or able to execute on many things I think would be "best", but  
> I may still be trying to push...really not sure!
> I feel very confident that they would benefit from some new thinking  
> on how to plan and move forward, but you are right, if they are not  
> prepared to follow through..............maybe I just want to reduce  
> my stress at sitting through 3 days of ineffective blabber AND I  
> want to play in OST!!!
> :)))))) Thank you sooooo much again for reading through my lengthy  
> epistle! ciao!

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