Ongoing Open Space

Harrison Owen, posting to the OSLIST:

In my own practice, I find it useful to start from the position (at least in my own mind) that the client is already there, but just doesn’t recognize their true situation. This start point makes a major difference in terms of how hard I have to work, and what needs to be done.

If the client is “already there” there is no need for me (or us) to design a new, InterActive(?) Organization, or even implement somebody else’s design. Simultaneously, I can say to the client — Look, this is not about doing something new and radical. It is really about being fully and intentionally what you already are.

Enabling the client to achieve this awareness is all about engaging in a process of appreciative inquiry (small “a”, small “I”) or maybe formally “doing” AI??? So — “Let’s look at what works, and how it really works.” The ensuing dialogue can go all over the place, but it usually covers the following sorts of stuff — Starting with the organizational chart.

Everybody knows of course that the organization is a steeply ranked hierarchy — with all control clearly centered at the top, and in the hands of the Senior person (CEO, MD, Director) And we know that, because that is the picture we have in our minds or framed on the wall. And yet, if you push a little bit, it turns out that little if anything actually works the way the picture says it should.

Good ideas come from all over the place, projects are initiated from the “SkunkWorks” that don’t even show up on the Org Chart. Most of all, it turns out that if all command and control is [actively] held by a single, almighty MD/CEO, then the organization is but a short step away from death by organizational hardening of the arteries. Come the next shift in the environment (large or small) — the rigid face of things just cracks.

The nasty secret is that real work, really gets done interactively — despite our best efforts to the contrary. So it might seem that we are working much too hard to fix something that ain’t broke. We simply have to get out of its way so that it can easily do what it does naturally.

Other Views and Approaches

  • The University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health – How Loyd Kepferle and Karen Main invited ongoing open space (click link and then scroll down to their chapter of Tales from Open Space) or see their Rules for Ongoing Open Space.
  • Inviting Agility – how Open Space and Agile methods play together and move organization in the direction of ongoing open space.
  • MichaelHerman:InvitingOrganizationEmerges – on broader, deeper, open space as ongoing, everyday, leadership and practice 
  • [The New Parish Priest] – Fr. Brian Bainbridge’s account of helping a parish change from a “top-down” entity to a “self-organizing” system – and the way this has happened.
  • UsersNonGuide – best of the OSLIST (see EmailDiscussionGroups), 37 international list participants talking about living and working in open space, –discovered and compiled by Chris Corrigan and MichaelHerman, illustrated by Reinhard Kuchenmueller