[OSList] OpenSpace Agility: How Agile can be successful. First Workshop in Germany, June from 13th to 15th

Birgitt Williams via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Thu Mar 10 05:52:06 PST 2016

Warm greetings to you all,

I showed up with curiosity and an interest to understand OpenSpace Agile.
Part of my wonder was what was behind the combination, how it was working
out, and how the bridging was done between the two. I do have some answers
and I thank you for that. I also now have many more questions. I read Dan's
post with interest and picked up a great deal of passion coming out,
something that is not always easy to convey on an email list. I understand
that where there is passion like this, there is a deep deep heart felt
caring. Dan and others who are interested in this topic of OpenSpace Agile.
I very much hope that you will keep showing up and contributing to assist
people like me to understand better.  Are you all on to something and still
in the throes of birthing pains to get to more foundational agreement on
what OpenSpace Agile is? 


In our Genuine Contact community, we also are limited too much by meeting
virtually, not having the opportunity to be physically present with each
other. We are passionate about what we are doing and there are a number of
us who have stayed the course together since 1999. We have had many
rebirthings as we have evolved together and come to understand our own body
of work and its applications better, including gaining greater clarity of
the differences cross culturally including the inter-generational cultural
differences, and the differences in fundamental ideologies of life and
social science. I am deeply grateful to my peers for more reasons than I can
mention. One is that we converse mostly in English, even though English is
the second, third and sometimes fourth language. We collectively need to
take some time to really listen to each other. I say all of this because
even when something seems well formulated, it is not unusual to need to let
go of what was to the best of our ability, and to come together for a
rebirth. As one of the founders of Genuine Contact, of which OST remains a
significant vital foundational element, I experience our Genuine Contact
trainers understanding and having insights in what we are doing that far
surpass what I understand and what I set out to do. This comes from a
willingness to participate when the conversations are joyful, and when they
are painful. And following what Peggy Holman has written about so well in
her book Engaging Emergence, it seems to be requisite to do so in our growth
as collectives.


I was also sparked by the exchange with Harrison about open space and OST
and intend to leave this discussion about OpenSpace Agility and post a new
topic.about the leadership competency of embracing paradox. I do, however,
look forward to reading your reports.


Blessings all around,



Birgitt Williams


President & Senior Consultant of Dalar International Consultancy, Inc. 

 <http://www.dalarinternational.com/> http://www.dalarinternational.com 

Co-founder of the Extraordinary Leadership Network

Co-founder of the Genuine ContactTprogram and author of The Genuine Contact
Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership
<http://www.genuinecontactway.com/> http://www.genuinecontactway.com

Co-owner of the Genuine Contact Co-owners Group Ltd.
<http://www.genuinecontact.net/> http://www.genuinecontact.net


Supporting leadership development for leading in a culture requiring agility
and flexibility in a performance environment of constant change.


Leadership development at your own pace? Become a member of the
Extraordinary Leadership Network
http://www.extraordinaryleadershipnetwork.com to participate in an online
leadership development program designed to increase your leadership skills
and capacity. 


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phone: 1-919-522-7750




From: OSList [mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org] On Behalf Of
Daniel Mezick via OSList
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2016 9:30 AM
To: oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Subject: Re: [OSList] OpenSpace Agility: How Agile can be successful. First
Workshop in Germany, June from 13th to 15th


Greetings All,

Wow what a thread. In the open space.

I'm grateful to everyone who has replied to Birgitt's inquiry here so far. 

Birgitt asks: how we can reconcile Open Space with Agile practices? 

More specifically, Birgitt asks, how we can reconcile the holistic nature of
Open Space with the reductionist nature of Agile practices?

The answer is very simple: use a humane approach. Use OpenSpace Agility. Or
better if you find it.

In OSA, we do require something of those formally authorized leaders. 

We do require that they exercise their authority, to name a clear direction,
like this:  

"...our direction is Agile... in service to continuous improvement."

Next, in OSA we also require that those authority figures clearly define the
"guardrails." The limits. The very rules of the game. In very EXPLICIT
terms. So everyone can be SAFE in this common knowledge, of the limits. 

The guardrails in OSA are the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto: 
Link: http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

Teams learn the 12 principles. They then conduct EXPERIMENTS with practices,
within the wider context of the clearly defined direction, and those clearly
defined guardrails. 

Importantly, this next part is KEY: It is absolutely ESSENTIAL:  Leaders
refrain from pushing or mandating or coercing specific practices. 

Because that's totally evil, OK? 

Because it KILLS any potential for genuine self-organization, for genuine
self-management, and for genuine higher performance. 

Because it's a fraud.

In OSA, leaders simply do not do this. 

The mandate of practices truly is truly a form of cruelty. It causes real

Martin Fowler, an Agile Manifesto signatory, said as much in 2006. 

The Agile Imposition- A 2006 essay from Martin Fowler. Quotes: 

".Imposing a process on a team is completely opposed to the principles of
agile software, and has been since its inception.."

".Imposing an agile process from the outside strips the team of the
self-determination which is at the heart of agile thinking." 

". imposing agile methods introduces a conflict with the values and
principles that underlie agile methods."

".I'd rather have a team work in a non-agile manner they chose themselves
than have my favorite agile practices imposed upon them."

".So I hope I've made clear that imposing agile methods is a very red flag.
"-Martin Fowler, Agile Manifesto signatory. Written 2006, the "Agile
Imposition" blog post, Martin Fowler

Wait. You can respectfully disagree with this wisdom if you want.  

But if you do, I respectfully submit that YOU are part of the wider problem.

I submit that YOU are in fact an enabler, and enabler of suffering. And some
very low performance thereby. 

Here is a very fine example of the very real suffering that happens if you
PUSH Agile practices on people, without their consent:

"The sweeping 'Agile transformation' that is currently underway at MIT's
Information Systems and Technology office is one that is unprecedented in
its scope and backlash from employees...."

...the comments at the bottom are like, people just literally crying out in
pain. (You might want to skip to the bottom to examine these.)

So Harrison, there you go. Could it be?

"...Could it then be that SCRUMMING is working much too hard? Might it be
better to carefully note and study what we can do naturally before trying to
improve it? We could then take all that as a "base" -- and who knows where
we might end up?"

Hell yes! I join you. Let's find out.

And that why thereis no mandate of Scrum or any other practice in OSA.
Right? Because it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. 

Because doing so is in complete opposition to the values and principles (and
in fact the very spirit) of the thing. 

In the open space.

Things can quickly get corrupted, and unravel. So in OSA, we have and hold a
very strict ethos, the intent of which is to make sure the OSA method never
gets diluted, polluted or corrupted, so that no one, anywhere, ever, is
harmed by it: 

"Attempting to use invitation (and specifically the inviting Open Space
meeting format) to persuade, convince, or otherwise influence anyone to do
anything in an Agile adoption without their explicit consent is not in
alignment with the spirit, purposes and intent of the OpenSpace Agility
technique." Reference link: http://openspaceagility.com/about/

Still dubious?

OK. What I am about to say next is as serious as a heart attack: 

Authority figures in the Agile community who are entirely SILENT on this
issue of mandated-Agile-practices are literally part of the problem. Perhaps
THE problem. 

The deafening silence of authority figures enables and perpetuates this
problem, which has now become an epidemic worldwide.

Instead of exercising their authority in the community to DEVALUE the
horrific mandate of practices, and thereby improve conditions, these
authority figures are in fact suggesting, through their silence, that the
mandate is good. That the illness is health. That coercion is goodness. That
it is wholeness. 

That it is great!

As Birgitt has clearly pointed out, silence is very much a form of consent. 

I join Birgitt and say YES-- especially the silence of real authority
figures in a group. That's real consent right there.

BIrgitt and many others on this thread point out that the leaders in a group
(those that hold the real authority) are absolutely essential in sustaining
any ongoing, legitimate, authentic transformation. 

And no where is this more true than in the Agile community, where coercive
PUSH is routinely validated by authority figures, through their silence.
Through their tacit consent. Even as the value of "pull" is exclaimed as a
high Agile virtue.

The good news is that there is probably IS a path forward. 

It has something to do with the emergence of a new narrative. 

Something to do with new voices.

Something about the telling a new story.

A story about teaching and celebrating the humanity of invitation... OVER

About the humanity of opt-in participation... OVER coercion. 

And about the virtue, and the thrill, and the humanity, of authentic
experimentation-- the kind of experimentation which is at the very heart of
Agile thinking.

Now to be clear, I suspect that there is absolutely nothing to do.

Or at least, one less thing to do.

In the open space.


Reference link:

On 3/8/16 6:35 PM, Harold Shinsato via OSList wrote:

Thank you so much for posting about this topic, Harrison!

And I'm so grateful for hearing Birgitt's tale. It has opened my mind, and

If you didn't hear this story from Daniel, I'll offer it here. It is my own
*PAINFUL* experience with Capital A "Agile" in software development. There
is a huge amount of discontent in the Agile space, even as it continues to
grow and obtain mind share. Part of the way that Daniel phrases it (and I do
too) is that Mandated Agile is very bad. Deadly. It crushes engagement. I
think it has also been crushing the true spirit of Agile.

And what Birgitt is offering from her experience is amazing. I feel humbled
to have not recognized how applicable her story has been to what I've been
trying to work on with helping organizations. But perhaps it has been my own
journey especially the last month that has awakened me so much more to
Birgitt's phenomenal work. I have ordered her book from Amazon (The Genuine
Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership). And I hope to get to one
of these workshops soon as well.

For me - "Open Space Technology" - the tool - is amazing. Resilient. But the
"Tool" is not the point. The point is "open space". Our innate humanity is
what is opened in a good OS event. That's why it's true - the biggest Axiom
of all in this work - "it's all open space"!

While I'm offering praise and thanks - I'd like to add Diana Larsen to the
mix. Her work at finding the real connection to the Spirit of Agile - in
connecting Agile to Open Space - has been a huge influence on me. The
AgileOpen program as supported by the Agile Alliance has brought Agile
coaches, practitioners, and learners together in Open Space in cities around
the world for 10 years now. It was only at two Agile Open events this year -
one in Seattle and one in San Diego - that I've started to understand at an
even deeper the powerful people element at the heart of Agile. It's right
there in the manifesto - but it continues to be taken to greater lengths by
practitioners and explorers in the Agile space.

Perhaps a couple elements in the Agile space that resonate deeply (beyond of
course the wonderful OpenSpace Agility) are the work around "Mob
Programming" and "#NoEstimates". Explaining these two things are way beyond
the scope of this thread - but returning what Birgitt speaks to - it is how
important are the holistic elements of our connection to each other take us
beyond any particular process. Encouraging leadership in our community - not
just the formal management - is what makes things like "Mobbing" (multiple
people working together at one computer and one keyboard), and
"#NoEstimates" (which is never promising what we don't really understand but
instead focus on continuous delivery of value).

These newer evolutions of Agility - do indeed maybe make "Scrumming" working
too hard. Though I do think Scrum can be helpful, the process was never what
made Agile truly Agile. "Individuals and Interactions over Processes and

    Warm regards,

On 3/8/16 1:03 PM, Harrison Owen via OSList wrote:

the middle of all that... but I do have some thoughts about Agile and Open
I get that Dan and many others understand Open Space to be a useful
tool/mechanism/means for "Agile Introduction." Agile Introduction, is of
course, magic words for the initiated and obscure for some of the rest of
us... Be that as it may... I agree. It works. AND....
Just to be a little provocative.... I might suggest that Open Space is not
the tool (means, mechanism), but the context. Of course I should probably
remove the capitals and just do "os" -- pointing to what for me is "the
magic sauce." That would be the process of Self Organization. Or as I said
(sort of) in some other place: Real Agility is the fully conscious and
intentional realization of the power of self organization. So open space
(small o, s) is simply the context in which everything happens. And things
work much better (agile, effective, efficient, etc) when we cheerfully align
ourselves with the way things are -- as opposed to "fighting the system" to
make it the way we think it should be.
Could it then be that SCRUMMING is working much too hard? Might it be better
to carefully note and study what we can do naturally before trying to
improve it? We could then take all that as a "base" -- and who knows where
we might end up?
Winter Address
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Harold Shinsato
harold at shinsato.com
twitter: @hajush <http://twitter.com/hajush> 

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Book: The OpenSpace Agility Handbook.


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