[OSList] Is there experience in developing Open Space further in organizations and networks after the initial intervention

john watkins johnw536 at mac.com
Fri Aug 10 10:35:13 PDT 2018

Peggy and Birgitt,

Wow! I am really excited to see this in-depth analysis of the process of developing an open space organization. I’ve always felt that this was possible, but not seen specific examples, though most of the steps are familiar from work I have done with organizations, thanks to reading Peggy’s writing, the open space folks, the future search work, the art of hosting people, Meg Wheatley and the Berkana Institute’s work, and ideas about emergence from Peggy and the complexity theory people.

How rich!

With gratitude,

John W.

> On Aug 8, 2018, at 3:32 PM, Peggy Holman via OSList <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org> wrote:
> Kari,
> Check out Birgitt William’s stories in the OSlist archives about the social service organization she ran as an Open Space Organization. Among her posts, my favorite is one where she listed her lessons about Open Space Organizations:
> https://www.mail-archive.com/oslist@lists.openspacetech.org/msg03764.html <https://www.mail-archive.com/oslist@lists.openspacetech.org/msg03764.html>
> My story of the Open Space Organization Part 2 of 4
> 18 Jan 2001
> I’ve put an excerpt from it below called Ingredients of the Open Space Organization.
> Another favorite insight from Birgitt is captured in this message <https://www.mail-archive.com/oslist@lists.openspacetech.org/msg02865.html>, called Open Space client opportunity from July 20, 2000:
> TO
> AND AWFUL FOR THE LEADERSHIP. Even though staff want the change at the
> start, they rebel and get very angry at the leadership. In all cases it is
> about this time that leadership ends up in tears, wondering if they have
> made a BIG mistake, doubting themselves as competent leaders.
> COACHING/MENTORING/HAND HOLDING from the consultant is critical at this
> time just as the midwife holding the hand of the woman in labour when
> things start to get really bad just before birth. It is exactly the time
> not to try to fight what is happening, and the most important thing the
> coach can do is to reassure and to tell stories of how "normal" this stage
> is. When everyone gets through this stage, staff start talking about how
> angry they were but how they now get it. And leaders talk about their anger
> at Open Space but when asked if they would do it over again, always say
> that they WOULD. In every case they said that although the transition had
> been very painful, that the stuff was out in the open that had always been
> under the surface and had always gotten in the way (ie: Dead Moose stuff)
> *****
> Ingredients of the Open Space Organization
> Below, I present a list of what we learned to pay attention to as an Open
> Space Organization. We refined this during those three years, actively and
> intentionally learning together to capture what worked.
> 1. The grief cycle at work promoting understanding and tolerance
> All staff were introduced to an understanding of the cycle of griefwork and
> challenged to view situations within Wesley Urban Ministries from a
> perspective that rather than dealing with "resistance to change", we could
> be dealing with a person working through the grief cycle. This promoted
> understanding and tolerance, and brought a shift towards deferring judgement
> about others.
> 2. Storytelling promoting awareness, collectiveness, empathy, truth
> Time was taken at regular intervals, every three months or so, for staff to
> tell stories. These were stories of the organization, of their immediate
> work in the organization or the larger context. Story telling time was seen
> as valuable, with all stories-sads, glads, and mads-being valued. Sometimes
> pictures and other artifacts accompanied the story telling. Through the
> story telling, we wove a story of a corporate culture that fostered social
> justice and valued all people as precious.
> 3. The story of the organization including purpose, values and vision
> We worked to achieve great clarity about our purpose, values and vision
> throughout the organization that was understood by all who were involved
> with the organization. The purpose, values, and vision were taken into
> account during every Policy and Operating decision that was made. All
> decisions and actions were upheld to ensure congruity with the purpose,
> values and vision.
> 4. The deep essence, working with what is not seen including Spirit
> We realized that much of what we spent our energy on as an organization
> especially energy in dealing with conflicts involved attention to behaviors
> and actions. As a staff we started talking about a theory that was known as
> the "iceberg theory", attesting that most of what was really going on in the
> organization was below the level of the visible (behaviors and actions) and
> at the levels of emotion, meaning, perception and interpretation. We started
> putting more energy to discussing the unseen. Some of this was done by our
> discussions about purpose, values and vision. Equally as valuable to
> shifting our attention to what we started calling the deeper essence of the
> organization was to spend time regularly to discuss our assumptions about
> the organization, and about specific areas of work. And we had discussions
> about the role of Spirit.
> 5. Holding as many meetings as possible using Open Space Technology
> Every Open Space Technology meeting we held was designed to bring results.
> Sometimes key areas were identified that we agreed required further Open
> Space Technology meetings. We held an annual two day Open Space Technology
> meeting for organization-wide strategic planning, periodic full day Open
> Space Technology meetings within different working units, and regular
> monthly short four hour Open Space Technology meetings to discuss key items
> that had emerged.
> 6. When holding a meeting that is task focused that is not appropriate for
> Open Space Technology, we held the meeting with process and format conducive
> to the values inherent in Open Space Technology including sitting in a
> circle with no tables, using process facilitation involving whole brain and
> intuition.
> 7. Recognizing when a meeting was open for participation or was simply to
> provide predetermined direction and information.
> When providing predetermined direction and information, we were clear that
> the meeting was not a participative one and we kept those to a minimum and
> short.
> 8. Working with chaos by learning about it and navigating with it rather
> than trying to manage it.
> We had discussions within the organization about chaos, about chaos and
> change being constant and how to work with it. We started using words like
> navigating with change and started to talk about and laugh about the
> impossibility of managing change. This affected how we did our planning,
> shifting us away from linear goal setting and strategic planning, and
> leaving room for new opportunities as they emerged.
> 9. Formal leadership committed to leading in a different way.
> We altered the role of management to one in which we identified management
> tasks as those that removed barriers for the job to get done, and one that
> ensured that we provided resources for the job to get done. A significant
> way of doing this was managing the organization in a way that paralleled the
> Open Space Technology meeting, complete with an ongoing bulletin board and
> opportunities to attend discussion sessions that could be set by anyone,
> based on passion and responsibility. At the Board level, it was essential
> that the Board was in a policy governance model.
> 10. Clarifying "givens" for the organization and clarifying "givens" for
> each OST meeting.
> This was probably the biggest breakthrough that we had in our journey to
> become and then sustain ourselves as an Open Space Organization. After the
> third month of Open Space Technology meetings, staff rebelled at the start
> of a meeting saying that they did not want any more of these meetings. When
> we discussed what the trouble was, amidst a great deal of anger from the
> staff, they said that every time they came up with a creative solution at an
> Open Space Technology meeting, they felt shut down afterwards by finding out
> about some reason why it couldn't be done. Usually the reason was legitimate
> and usually I was the one who gave it. I had been unaware of this or the
> impact. My intentions were good. It was also apparent that staff were
> rebelling against the new responsibilities for solutions in the
> organization. This is what Harrison Owen called "freedom shock".
> This took us to discussing the "givens" or limits that we worked within as
> an organization. We then pared the "givens" down to what truly was a "given"
> and all staff, Board and volunteers proceeded with our Open Space Technology
> meetings, knowing up front what was and was not doable.
> 11. Bringing the processes and changes to everyone's awareness
> We frequently discussed organizational processes and changes so that we all
> paid attention to the organizational whole and how it ran. This enabled us
> all to be "keepers of the vision" and to move forward as a collective whole,
> each person being given the chance to make his/her personal meaning out of
> it all.
> 12. Organizational lifecycle
> We studied and worked with knowledge about organizational lifecycles and
> worked intentionally to challenge ourselves to keep ourselves at peak
> performance in relation to structure being appropriate to support the spirit
> of the organization and of achieving the purpose.
> 13. Understanding authority, accountability, and responsibility in a
> framework of working with energy from passion and responsibility.
> We worked from a belief that all people were precious and valuable and that
> the wisdom to do what needed to be done was amongst the people involved with
> the organization. In doing so, we had discussions about accountability,
> authority, and responsibility to ensure that we were clear about these while
> simultaneously working with passion and capturing maximum energy to move
> things forward without getting in our own way with too many rules.
> ________________________________
> Peggy Holman
> Co-founder
> Journalism That Matters
> 15347 SE 49th Place
> Bellevue, WA  98006
> 206-948-0432
> www.journalismthatmatters.org <http://www.journalismthatmatters.org/>
> www.peggyholman.com
> Twitter: @peggyholman
> JTM Twitter: @JTMStream
> Enjoy the award winning Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity <http://www.engagingemergence.com/>
>> On Aug 7, 2018, at 9:20 AM, Harrison Owen via OSList <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org <mailto:oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>> wrote:
>> Kari… The answer is YES – with multiple examples. Long, long ago in the Great State of Kentucky (USA), Some strange things happened…
>> The University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health Loyd Kepferle and Karen Main
>> For reasons remaining somewhat obscure, it turns out that Open Space often migrates from the status of "meeting methodology" towads a new status as, "the way we do business around here." One might assume that an organization doing business in an open space mode would accomplish little. That does not seem to be the reality, for Open Space frames the total operation, and internally there is an appropriate alternation between open exploration of new opportunities and pre-determined, structured responses to known situations. The key word is "appropriate." In those situations where people know what to do and there are systems in place to take care of that particular business, that is the way things work. On the other hand, when novelty is the order of the day open space becomes the dominant mode. The people in Kentucky have been experimenting with all of this, and what follows is a description of their efforts. vvvvvv The employees of the Center for Rural Health believe that the Center exists as one mechanism for making life better for people who live in rural Kentucky and rural America. These people include our students, our patients, our constituents and of course, ourselves. We try to make life better by educating people for better 40 careers in health care, through the health services provided in our clinic, through our Community programs which help people improve their health care systems, through research and policy analysis coupled with advocacy for improving health in rural areas, and through programs which will help all of our employees achieve their potential. The Center is a complex organization functioning within the rules of a much larger bureaucracy to which we are accountable (the University Kentucky Medical School). While the philosophy enunciated below is one of personal empowerment, we recognize that we are not empowered to act in ways that are contradictory to University rules and regulations. Some of our programs, such as the academic programs, may be more constrained by these rules than others, such as Community Programs. In addition, while we espouse an egalitarian philosophy, we recognize that for the purposes of accountability, there is an implicit hierarchy within the Center. For example, while employees interested in technology are strongly urged to explore innovations that may help our programs, they will require information from the Center Administrator regarding availability of funds since the Administrator is accountable to the Director for not overspending the Center's budget. In this example, however, if funds were not available from the Center, this information would only lead the technology group to consider other funding sources. It would not negate their right to improve our programs. We believe that even with these limitations, the vast majority of problems and opportunities which come to the Center can be resolved by maximizing the talents and creativity of our 41 employees through empowerment. In this regard, we believe that all of us are using our abilities to make the Center succeed. ALL OF OUR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE EQUAL. In these efforts there is no hierarchy or "chain of command". We simply perform different functions. To operationalize this philosophy, we are working hard to make a process we experimented with a reality in every day life at the Center. The process is called "Open Space". The main idea of this process is that "People who care most passionately about a problem or opportunity have the RIGHT and the RESPONSIBILITY to do something about it". This basic idea supersedes all notions of a hierarchical organizational structure which requires individuals with problems or ideas to proceed through several layers of authority in order to articulate a problem/solution or idea before it can be addressed or implemented. Underlying this approach is the idea that success is dependent on commitment which comes from Ownership which is dependent on power. There are only five constraints on this model of personal empowerment: 1. When a problem or opportunity is to be discussed, there must be wide notification of the meeting time and place so anyone who is interested can attend. 2. Proposed solutions/ideas must be broadcast widely so they can be acknowledged as Center policies, programs or procedures; or, if they are contradictory to University of Kentucky rules, another solution can be sought. 3. Proposed solutions cannot be hurtful to anyone else. 4. Proposed solutions should channel our limited resources in such a way as to have maximum impact on achieving 42 our goal. 5. Accomplishing the work for which we were hired takes precedence over our group work. However, if the RIGHT people (those who really care) are involved in any topic, they will find a way to make sure their work is completed and the work of the group is brought to a successful conclusion. There are NO CONSTRAINTS on the following: 1. Who can call a meeting. 2. The type of problem or opportunity that is being addressed. 3. The availability of time to have a meeting. 4. Who may attend a meeting. 5. The availability of information necessary for a group to work. Open Space assumes a consensual process will be observed by the ad hoc groups that form and that all ideas will be considered respectfully by the people in the group. Within a group, the convener takes responsibility for articulating the situation under discussion. Another member of the group will act as a recorder. Between the two of them they will develop a brief report of the meeting and circulate it to everyone else at the Center. The ad hoc group may choose to modify its plans based on feedback. In this kind of organization there is little reason for an ongoing committee structure. Some groups, for example the academic program heads, may have reason to meet on a regular basis. But we believe committees are most useful when they are composed of people who are really interested and when they are established to deal with relatively discreet situations and then dissolved. While we believe this is a good way to develop a truly successful organization, it is an approach to organizational behavior which is fraught with insecurity which, in the short run, may produce fear, anger and frustration. It will take a long time for 43 those of us who have lived in hierarchical and paternalistic organizations to believe we are really empowered. We, at the Center for Rural Health, recognize this philosophy is somewhat revolutionary and will be uncomfortable for all of us some of the time. But we also believe people do their best when they are empowered to control the conditions that affect them. We also think that solutions which are imposed on people rather than generated by the people who are affected are doomed to failure. Finally, we think we have a wonderful opportunity to test this theory because of the quality of the people who work for the Center. If we are wrong, then, in the spirit of Open Space, we are empowered to throw it out and adopt another philosophy. For further information contact: Loyd Kepferle / Karen Main Center for rural Health 100 Airport Garden Drive.
>> And if you want your own copy (with many other examples) go to www.openspaceworld.com <http://www.openspaceworld.com/> Look in “Books,” and check out “Tales From Open Space.” Can’t rember when we published it, but sometime in the ‘90’s. A while ago.
>> Harrison
>> Winter Address
>> 7808 River Falls Dr.
>> Potomac, MD 20854
>> 301-365-2093
>> Summer Address
>> 189 Beaucauire Ave
>> Camden, ME 04843
>> 207 763-3261
>> Websites
>> www.openspaceworld.com <http://www.openspaceworld.com/>
>> www.ho-image.com <http://www.ho-image.com/>
>> From: OSList [mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org <mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org>] On Behalf Of Kári Gunnarsson via OSList
>> Sent: Monday, August 6, 2018 8:06 AM
>> To: oslist at lists.openspacetech.org <mailto:oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>
>> Cc: Kári Gunnarsson
>> Subject: [OSList] Is there experience in developing Open Space further in organizations and networks after the initial intervention
>> Hi my dear open space family
>> I wonder if there is experience in developing Open Space further in organizations and networks after the initial intervention and how we could, each of us, go about inviting this experience to participating in the next and future Wosonos events.
>> Who are the people that want to explor how to develop the OST approach further in their organizations and networks? I think we usually call them sponsors!
>> With love 
>> Kári
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John Watkins, Ed.D.
Inquiry & Learning for Change
517 59th Street
Oakland CA 94609
johnw536 at mac.com

“Today the cutting-edge work for wisdom driven people is to build wisdom driven organizations.” - TheTransitioner - Pioneers

"Tomorrow's humanity is a pure piece of Art."  - Jean-Francois Noubel

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