[OSList] Open Space and Authority

Daniel Mezick dan at newtechusa.net
Sun Mar 30 13:03:39 PDT 2014

Hola Harrison,

Yes, and I join with you in the (current) belief that:

  * all systems are open and
  * all systems are fundamentally self-organizing to the core.

I'm zooming in on authorization, because I notice that when coaching, 
there is always this sticky "authority aspect" in any problems that need 
addressing. Authority always seems to be the central concern. This seems 
to play out in self-organizing systems.

I do probably need to reiterate that what I am calling 'informal 
authority" has absolutely nothing to do with the formal, hierarchical, 
positional authority we are used to talking about. This is something 

"Informal authority" is your street-cred, the respect that others on 
your team confer to you. It's the "informal, self-organized" 
authorization you get when your team looks to you for leadership...from 
time to time....in real time.

And so in addition to the belief that all systems are open and 
self-organizing, I also currently hold the following additional beliefs:*

  * *Self-organization in a social system (like a team) is actually the
    act of self-management.* Management is a function, not a role.
    Manager-roles are obsolete, even as (self) management becomes more
    important than ever. Example: OST.
  * *Self-management in a group is the act of distributing informal
    authority in real time.* Authority is dynamically allocated (given
    and taken away) by the informal system in real-time. The informal
    system responds moment by moment to environmental change 1000 times
    faster that the best formal system. It is super-efficient. For this
    reason the “informal system” (the self-organizing universe) is
    superior in every way to man-made, formalized methods of authority
    distribution. The informal system wins every time. There’s a REASON
    for that: Higher, better, superior performance.
  * *All self-organization is self-management at the level of group.
    *Meaning that all self-organization in human systems is
    fundamentally about authority distribution*.* This means that the
    distribution of informal authority is going on continuously, in real
    time, all the time anywhere people come together in groups to reach
    a goal or accomplish a task. *

If this is true, it might explain what is going on, in the Open Space.

Blog Post Link:


On 3/30/14 11:57 AM, Harrison Owen wrote:
> Wonderful stew! Thanks Dan!!
> With this question, as with all questions, the answer you give will 
> depend upon your point of view. What is “correct,” given a particular 
> point of view becomes questionable from another. In the interest of 
> transparency, allow me to state my point of view: /All systems are 
> self organizing/, which I take to be a prior and fundamental quality 
> of their existence. It is also true that human beings have 
> historically believed that they organize systems, and therefore 
> possess all the attendant rights and privileges as organizers -- to 
> control, to be in authority, to grant authority to some specific 
> person. The fact that there is  a small disparity between these 
> propositions doesn’t change the relationship, in my view. All systems 
> are self organizing, even those we think we organize.
> The story, as I would understand it, goes something like this. A 
> system emerges from a nexus of caring. A funny way of saying that one 
> day someone was struck by a passion and took responsibility for it. 
> Their passion was attractive, and others came and shared the passion 
> and took responsibility... The emergent organization appeared. Over 
> time “ways of doing business” (Structures and controls) formed, and to 
> the extent that all of that was congruent with the demands of the 
> environment, the emergent became formalized (as in formal 
> organization). But always as a secondary phenomenon. Self organization 
> first.
> As long as the environment remains stable, at least relatively stable, 
> everything works, but over time the people involved forget their 
> roots. They assume the priority of the Formal Organization and forget 
> where and how it came to be. There is no real difficulty with this 
> assumption until or unless the environment shifts...or worse... shifts 
> massively. At that point, structures and controls (authorities) which 
> had been adequate in the prior situation fail.
> Of course, this is just a story, but to the extent that it has any 
> validity, there are I think some serious implications for Agility, or 
> more particularly, the search for Agility – which I take to be Dan’s 
> essential mission. Major one is: /Agility is inversely proportional to 
> the degree of formal structure and control./ When everything is tied 
> down to a specific way of doing business (forms, controls, procedures, 
> authorities) movement, especially Agile movement becomes difficult or 
> impossible. As long as the Formal Organization is congruent with the 
> environment, no problem. And to the extent that shifts in the 
> environment can be predicted and prepared for, not much of a problem. 
> But when that environment shifts in radically un-thought of and 
> predicted ways...BIG DEAL! Reading my newspaper this morning, as 
> indeed every morning, I think we got a BIG DEAL.
> So what about Agility in this old world?? I somehow think we have 
> gotten well beyond the effective range of the power and authority of 
> the CEO, his minions, and designees. Interesting, but really not all 
> that consequential. There is some good news, I think. We now have the 
> opportunity to get back to basics, the place we come from – and 
> remember that organizing a self organizing system is not only an 
> oxymoron. It is stupid, especially when the system can do a better job 
> that we can – which I suspect to be the case. As for Agility? That is 
> what self organization is all about, but it is more usually called, 
> Adaptive Behavior. J
> Harrison
> Harrison Owen
> 7808 River Falls Dr.
> Potomac, MD 20854
> 189 Beaucaire Ave. (summer)
> Camden, Maine 04843
> Phone 301-365-2093
> (summer) 207-763-3261
> www.openspaceworld.com <www.openspaceworld.com%20>
> www.ho-image.com <www.ho-image.com%20> (Personal Website)
> To subscribe, unsubscribe, change your options, view the archives of 
> to:http://lists.openspacetech.org/listinfo.cgi/oslist-openspacetech.org
> *From:*oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org 
> [mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org] *On Behalf Of *Daniel 
> Mezick
> *Sent:* Saturday, March 29, 2014 4:58 PM
> *To:* oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
> *Subject:* [OSList] Open Space and Authority
> I am asking for help. Will you help me clarify my thinking?
> I'm wondering if 100% equivalence in authorization for all 
> participants is actually a key/defining characteristic of any genuine 
> and authentic Open Space event...
> First things first. Definitions:
> Authority: The right to do specific work
> Authorization: The conferring of authority
> Formal Authority: Authorization conferred from the formal organization 
> to a person. Example: "the CEO".
> Informal Authority: Authorization conferred from peers, colleagues and 
> co-workers. Example: "emergent leadership".
> Now let's get into it. I currently think, and believe, that:
> 1. For an Open Space event inside an organization, the Sponsor must 
> occupy a role with substantial formal authorization, definitely more 
> than enough to actually authorize that OST event. The higher the level 
> of formal authorization of the Sponsor, the better it is for the event 
> overall.
> 2. The Sponsor authorizes the participants- the "invitees"-- to meet 
> together, and do the specific work of exploring and investigating the 
> Theme. This "authorized work" is done in "authorized space"...in that 
> specific place, for a specific period of time. The Sponsor explicitly 
> authorizes all of the above and conveys this message after they stand 
> up, and before they sit down, at the opening.
> 2. The Facilitator is formally authorized by the Sponsor to do the 
> specific work of OST event. Absent this authorization, the Facilitator 
> has no standing.
> 3. This is the big one: Everyone else, Sponsor included, has 100% 
> equivalent authorization (100% equivalent "right to do work") as of 
> the moment of opening of the Bulletin Board and/or the opening of the 
> Marketplace.
> 4. As the event progresses, authorization dynamics are in play. These 
> "informal authorization" dynamics occur continuously throughout the 
> day in real time, moment by moment. Those who experience net increases 
> in levels of informal authorization as of the end of the meeting have 
> membership in the "emergent leadership" group.
> I am very interested in what experienced folks think about the 
> validity of the assertion in (3) above.
> Ex the Facilitator, does everyone else actually have 100% equivalent 
> authorization in an OST meeting? Why or why not?
> Is this 100% equivalence of authorization actually a key/defining 
> characteristic of any genuine and authentic Open Space event?
> Thanks for any insight you may be able to provide, and
> Kind Regards,
> Daniel
> -- 
> Daniel Mezick, President
> New Technology Solutions Inc.
> (203) 915 7248 (cell)
> Bio <http://newtechusa.net/dan-mezick/>. Blog 
> <http://newtechusa.net/blog/>. Twitter 
> <http://twitter.com/#%21/danmezick/>.
> Examine my new book:The Culture Game 
> <http://newtechusa.net/about/the-culture-game-book/>: Tools for the 
> Agile Manager.
> Explore Agile Team Training 
> <http://newtechusa.net/services/agile-scrum-training/> and Coaching. 
> <http://newtechusa.net/services/agile-scrum-coaching/>
> Explore the Agile Boston <http://newtechusa.net/user-groups/ma/>Community.
> _______________________________________________
> OSList mailing list
> To post send emails toOSList at lists.openspacetech.org
> To unsubscribe send an email toOSList-leave at lists.openspacetech.org
> To subscribe or manage your subscription click below:
> http://lists.openspacetech.org/listinfo.cgi/oslist-openspacetech.org


Daniel Mezick, President

New Technology Solutions Inc.

(203) 915 7248 (cell)

Bio <http://newtechusa.net/dan-mezick/>. Blog 
<http://newtechusa.net/blog/>. Twitter <http://twitter.com/#%21/danmezick/>.

Examine my new book:The Culture Game 
<http://newtechusa.net/about/the-culture-game-book/>: Tools for the 
Agile Manager.

Explore Agile Team Training 
<http://newtechusa.net/services/agile-scrum-training/> and Coaching. 

Explore the Agile Boston <http://newtechusa.net//user-groups/ma/>Community.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.openspacetech.org/pipermail/oslist-openspacetech.org/attachments/20140330/0c82f857/attachment-0008.htm>

More information about the OSList mailing list