Open Wide, Even if Briefly

Ralph Copleman, an OS veteran who’s been around since OS started, posted this bit of brilliance to the OSLIST today:

Here’s what I think about trying to do it all in one day…

I don’t bother trying to get proceedings printed, let alone distributed and reviewed. That’s for later. I operate out of the belief that one day is not enough to truly explore the territory (the “issues and opportunities”) plus come to conclusion about priorities plus formulate action plans. You can do it, but it will not, in my experience, have much sticking power. And the larger the group, the more challenging it is to make the energy last.

So I open space, hold the space, close the space.

The latter, for me, requires about 20 minutes (not counting a closing circle, which I always do in one form or another, sometimes abbreviated to one word or phrase per person).

  1. Ask people what themes came up repeatedly regardless of topic or session. Ask someone to note these on flip charts.
  2. Keep going until everyone who wishes has a chance to mention the theme they noticed.
  3. Take the resultant flip charts, spread them on the floor, ask people to mark their favorites. Might be three, five, seven, etc. Depends on the size of the group and the number of items on the chart. Count them up if there’s time. Certainly count them up if you’ll be moving on to action planning the next day. Otherwise, simply promise the info will be available shortly in written form (after the coordinators pull it together and send it out).

(Where did I learn to do it this way? I do not remember, but I think from Harrison. Is it in the book?)

Simple, fast, everyone’s involved, no fancy footwork on my part. I can think of a thousand group dynamics issues and eventualities that I have not covered by doing things this way. My conviction is few if any of them really matter. Dealing with them, I have learned from finally acknowledging feedback I could not hear for years, was more about my needs than the client’s.

Organizations of all types may be better served if we open the space W I D E and let lots of air and light in than if we merely crack a window for a brief time in the name of completing the entire exercise in a short period.