Liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen,

nachstehend sende ich Ihnen / Euch 3 Berichte über Open Space, die das amerikanische Open Space Institute in die Welt hinausgemailt hat.

Bemerkenswert an diesen Berichten finde ich, daß im ersten Open Space mit einer Zukunftskonferenz kombiniert wird, im zweiten mit Appreciative Inquiry (zu dieser Methode folgt bald ein Mail) und im dritten mit Elementen von Dialog und Community Building.

Ich wünsche eine anregende Lektüre.

Matthias zur Bonsen

STORIES, The Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US), Issue 1, June 1999

Purpose of the Newsletter
The purpose of the newsletter is to make our stories available to each other so that we continue to learn and grow. We hope they will serve you for education, examples, connection and pleasure.

This newsletter is intended for the use of friends and members of the Open Space Institute (US). It may be reproduced in any useful way with acknowledgement. When copying, please include the author/contact/publication information at the end of each story.

In This Issue
1--A High Stakes, Tight Time Open Space
2--OS Event Opens a Space for Children
3--Open Space and Strategy

A High Stakes, Tight Time Open Space
Jay W. Vogt, Peoplesworth

The Challenge
Imagine you&Mac226;re a consultant and the President of an urban community college calls you and says, „I&Mac226;ve been at my job for two months. I&Mac226;m the sixth president in eight years. The semester&Mac226;s almost over, but I want to involve all 270 faculty and staff in setting goals for the College for next year. We have four hours. Can you help me?‰

Tell me you wouldn&Mac226;t laugh out loud, or be speechless! Traditional organizational development methods tell us there&Mac226;s no way to bring so many people, who are almost certainly so demoralized, together to get so much work done so fast. In my case, we begin to talk about Open Space.

The People
Shortly thereafter, over two hundred faculty and staff assemble in the college cafeteria. The President has invited everyone, saying simply: „Please come if you care about the future of the college. If you are not coming, please cover for someone who is.‰ Present are long time faculty,
copy machine operators, and everyone in between.

The Process
We adapt Open Space to fit this extremely tight time frame. In the first half hour everyone eats lunch. In the next half hour the President speaks briefly, and I set up the theme, process, and agenda. I welcome all conversations, but remind groups that only those who complete a flip chart template, listing a goal and a set of measures indicating its success, can participate in the final goal-setting process. Participants post over thirty topics for a single, two hour round. We gather in the final hour for an informal, gallery-style review of proposed goals posted all around us on
walls. Individuals multi-vote for their favorites using adhesive dots.

The Results
People embraced the goal setting conversations with fervor. Twenty two goals were ultimately posted. The multi-voting process produced seven clear priorities. People stood and cheered as the goals were announced. They spoke warmly, sharing their pride, and celebrating their renewed hope.

That next fall the President invited me back, reconvening the entire College community in another half day Open Space to propose projects to realize the six goals (one was already done). She demonstrated her resolve by dedicating a substantial budget for this purpose. Participants proposed and discussed project ideas, which were, at a later date, refined, finalized in writing, considered by the whole community, and voted by ballot. With money and mandate, priority projects happened fast.

In the following fall, the College began an ambitious strategic planning process. I returned to lead a Future Search Conference that reinvented the vision and goals of the College, and built strong, new relationships with external stakeholders. The President credits the Open Space forums as giving her rapid credibility, mobilizing the community, and setting the stage for lasting organizational transformation.

Jay W. Vogt jaywv@aol.com
for STORIES, the Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US) osi@tmn.com

OS Event Opens New Space for Children
BJ Peters, consultant, and Cynthia Krauss, consultant

Here is the story of an event we facilitated in February. We hope you find it useful.

The Theme
Creating a collaborative design for our new environment and the way we work together that will enrich the learning of children, the staff and the community of Buckeye.

The Process
It was a combination of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Open Space.

The Client
Buckeye Elementary School District (a rural Arizona area)

The People
The people involved were instructional aides, an occupational therapist, speech/language therapists, a physical therapist, a special education teacher, all of whom are involved in providing services for children with handicapping conditions.

Jane Hunt, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Director of Maricopa Special Services Consortium, in addition to other responsibilities, is responsible for overall management of the staff of programs for children with handicapping conditions. She gave her permission to share this story with you.

Why did you and your client say "yes" to an Open Space event?

The client was seeking ways to develop collaboration among the diverse service providers. The delivery model of services had been fragmented. It was not clear who was in charge; services were not integrated; scheduling was not coordinated; new staff members were not trained or oriented in
job expectations; there was not shared clear focus or synergy about vision or direction of the program.

The Results
An underlying theme was that people wanted to feel connected, that they mattered, that others recognized that they added value to the organization. They wanted to have the necessary information they needed to do their jobs and to see how that fit into the bigger picture.

The Open Space discussions resulted in two major passions:

Development of a Harmony Farm.
This was an incredible process to observe. The group working on this project completed a farm design, a cost/benefit analysis, a funding proposal. I was in the same room where this group was working, and I was only peripherally aware of their work. Suddenly, they all got up and left the room. As an afterthought, one of them came back to tell me they would be back. About an hour later, they returned in high spirits. They had gone directly to the office of the Superintendent of Buckeye Elementary School District and shared their proposal. He committed to them on the spot that they could have their Harmony Farm and that the District would fund it. An interesting sidenote is that a new teacher has been hired, one who has horses, has trained handicapped children to ride horses, has just moved to the community and is excited to implement and enhance this project.

Training and Learning
A yearning for training and information emerged from the other six discussion groups. Since the event, a partnership is forming with the Campfire Girls and Boys Organization. This partnership will result in staff training for special education staff as well as development programs for regular education students. The overall goal is to create collaboration among special education and regular education to enhance the quality of learning for all.

„We must be the change we seek in the world."
-- Gandhi

BJ Peters bjpeters@amug.org and Cynthia Krauss yellans@primenet.com
for STORIES, the Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US) osi@tmn.com

Open Space and Strategy
Uwe Weissflog,SDRC

„Every man is a particular kind of leader, no leader is a particular kind of man"
[Chinese proverb, adapted]

The following is an excerpt from „Strategic Conversations as the Means for Organizational Change; A Case Study‰, a paper that describes various approaches to strategy, among them Open Space Technology. The paper is based on the experience gained at a global provider of engineering software solutions over a period of four years. In this excerpt only the experiences as they relate to
the use of Open Space Technology are described. The complete paper can be requested from the author.

Since 1995, various approaches had been used to create a vision of „who we areand where we are heading." This vision had to serve at least two purposes, to be of value to the company&Mac226;s customers and to enable the members of the organization to develop a clear sense of purpose and direction. Processes and methodologies that proved to be most successful were based on common sense and unorthodox thinking. The pace of change in the company's markets required approaches that were different from traditional strategic planning. The idea of "the plan" was replaced with "Strategic Conversations"; i.e. the ongoing quest to find answers to several key questions:

- Why are we in the business we are in?
- Where are we today?
- Where do we want to be in the future?

Openness and a systemic view of the company and its environment proved to be valuable elements in this ongoing quest. Open Space Technology provided a path to achieve our goals.

How It All Started
Early 1995 was a gloomy time in the history of the company. Within weeks, our stock price fell to below $4, reflecting a loss of shareholder value of more than 80% in less than 12 months. Financial overstatements caused a crisis resulting in drastic consequences:

- A set of layoffs
- Suspension of the company 401K plan contributions
- Dismissal of the CEO and part of the executive team.

At the same time, one of the company&Mac226;s flagship products at that time had severe quality problems. For the first time in its 25-year history the company experienced a real threat to its existence. This threat proved to be the beginning of a new era. Since then, the company engaged in multiple initiatives to find a path to its future. Open Space Technology proved to be valuable in most of them. Two examples demonstrate how we used it.

SMP (Strategic Management Process) was a corporate business strategy initiative based on a process developed internally. SMP included insight from a variety of sources among them strategic planning, business, leadership, science and philosophy. CCSD (Customer Council for Strategic Direction) brought together key customer executives, industry leaders, academe, and the company&Mac226;s executive management team to jointly talk about the future.

Strategic Management Process (SMP)

In 1997 we decided to explore the world of strategic planning more thoroughly before any initiative was started. We considered various sources to better understand „strategy‰, among them:

- Roughly 60 books on strategy, covering a wide span from ancient strategic thought to recent understanding of strategy.
- Theme searches on the world-wide-web with focus on consultants and their methodologies in the areas of strategy and organizational development. We also looked at processes and methodologies used in strategy development, in particular processes with an underlying holistic approach.
- Large scale group interventions including Open Space Technology (Owen, 1992),
Systems Thinking (Senge, 1994), the Future Search Conference Model (Weissbord, 1995) and Servant Leadership (Greenleaf, 1983).

Eventually, a set of key questions formed the underlying basis of SMP, relating to:

- WHY are we in the business?
- WHERE are we today?
- WHERE do we want to be in the future?
- WHAT are the opportunities?
- HOW do we seize the opportunities?
- HOW do we react to gaps between actions and plans?

The SMP process was designed for and used by the corporate strategy team, which was composed of the CEO, his executive team, and some key business and technology professionals. This small group, except for the Environment Scan, carried out all SMP process steps. The result of SMP was a set of documents that covered the territory described in the list above.

The SMP Environment Scan, the key event to gather information about the company&Mac226;s internal and external environment was conducted as a two-day Open Space event in which 85 people participated. This event was structured around the following inquiry:

- The key question: „What do we know about us and our environment today and where do we want to be in the future?‰
- Twelve questions, developed by the executive team in a smaller Open Space prior to the Environment Scan

After sharing the dimensions of the inquiry in the opening ceremony, the event followed the principles and laws of Open Space. The initial twelve questions were expanded to eighteen and the group self-organized into smaller groups to answer the questions.

During the Environmental Scan each group documented its results in a very simple form and presented them to the entire group at the end of each day. By the end of the event a 120-page document was created and made available to all participants within 24 hours. Within two days, the group had covered a wide area of concerns, covering both internal and external areas. The document is still a valuable resource today. Its usefulness would even be higher, had customers, industry analysts and others taken part in its creation.

Customer Council for Strategic Direction (CCSD)
In early 1998 the company took a real leap of confidence. For the first time we opened the conversation about the future of our markets and ourselves to the participation of customers, academia and close business partners. A formal business event combined with Open Space provided the framework. The latter was imbedded inside the formal meetings with the intent that both forms would not interfere with each other. Two days of the three-day event were totally
dedicated to Open Space. Only the Open Space event will be described here.

As is the case in all Open Space events, there was no preset agenda, except for a trigger question. The question The Future Role of Information Technology in „Making and Moving‰ Digital Product Information; Local and Global Perspectives had been communicated in the invitation. After „opening the space‰, which included the explanation of the process, the agenda was created by the group in less than one hour. The group then self-organized in sub-groups, with all
participants attending the sessions that they felt most passionate about. It is worth sharing that the group consisted of eighteen very senior industry leaders from around the world.

In the sub-group meetings, the observation work happened in multiple forms. Informal conversation, formal presentations of material that individual members had brought in anticipation of topics they wanted to talk about, and creative brainstorming were used at different times. The diversity of the groups enabled the creation of a rich web of information. This was further enhanced by the seniority of the CCSD members, ensuring that the groups addressed the key areas of today&Mac226; business and technology challenges.

Each day we provided space to share results, insights and observations of the different sub-groups. All sessions were recorded online using a laptop. This provided the opportunity to share the results with all attendees directly after the conference was over. We used a local overnight printing service to provide draft copies of the results.

We used Dialogue sessions to end each day. Two techniques helped to make these sessions very successful, the use of the Native American talking stick and a rule, adopted from the Quakers, that one would only speak if one had to something of significance to say.

The Learning Experience
The following describes the learning that occurred during these interventions, specifically in Open Space. We use the following model to relate the experience to different stages in our learning cycle.

- Observation&Mac246; Activities to record, without distortion, what occurs in the whole system (inside and outside of the company.
- Understanding (insight)&Mac246; Processes to make sense out of what has been observed.
- Planning&Mac246; Processes to create common mental models (vision) and shared meaning
- Acting - Short or long-term action the organization undertakes in support of its vision.

Open Space is very powerful, specifically in the observation and insight phases. The key positive behavior of the observation stage is the capability to listen, based on:

- The ability to suspend assumptions (Senge, 1994), enabling a more complete picture of reality to emerge;
- The ability to suppress the urge for instant response, enabling true understanding (Peck, 1992); and
- The ability to express mutual empathy, enabling trust to be build among the participants that partake in the conversation (Covey, 1990).

Equality of participants proved to be the leading prerequisite that is required for these characteristics to emerge. The structure of Open Space and Dialogue fulfilled these criteria naturally.

„Meaning making‰ is a human characteristic (Maslow). Collective understanding (meaning) was best created when the following conditions were present:

- Diversity was valued and accepted as a prerequisite for „rich" conversation;
- Individual views were understood as important, but limited, means to fully describe complex environments;
- Open sharing of individual thoughts, among non-judgmental peers, has the potential for collective insight that can not be achieved on the individual level (the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts).

Dialogue and Open Space proved to be powerful methodologies that enabled collective insight. An important organizational element of these methodologies is the circle. The seating arrangement in Open Space and Dialogue enables equality of the participants and prevents individual domination because there is no physical location in a circle that supports it.

Individual and Organizational Change
It is a tragic illusion to assume that we can change others without changing ourselves. This misunderstanding seems to be related to a shift in the fundamentals of our thinking more than 300 years ago. The mechanistic view of the world, initiated by Newton and enforced by the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th century, has created a mindset that separates planning from doing. This mental model, aided by specialization, contributes to an unspoken reality, where only certain people have to change, while others are exempt. But the emergence of knowledge work, distributed worldwide and linked in a network fashion, is challenging this model.

Any change in such a dynamic environment, where formal power and control are undermined by dynamic realities, will depend on voluntary, individual change first. One encouraging observation, across all initiatives, is that this individual change actually happens.

It&Mac226;s Over When It&Mac226;s Over (or probably not)

Our journey of the past four years can be described as evolutionary, moving from the hierarchical model of management to a more participatory model, where plans and actions are done by the people based on knowledge and not on formal status. This is consistent with organizational trends observed in highly successful companies in many knowledge-driven industries. In particular the following insights that shape our ongoing strategic conversations are encouraging:

- The diversity of environment and organization is best captured if the whole system participates in the observation stage.
- Any constraints put on the observation stage results in bias. Automatically these biases work like filters further reducing the capability to see what really happens.
- Insight gained while the whole system is present has the potential to become part of the organization&Mac226;s culture. This makes resistance to follow-on plans and actions less likely.

The experience of the past four years is changing the way we think about what is important to sustain our organizational existence. Changes, impacting our corporate identify, seem to emerge in several areas, among them:

- A shift from technology-centric to market-centric thinking.
- A broadening of our value system, from individual contribution to team (collective) contribution.
- An understanding of interdependence, within the organization and between the organization and its environment

In summary, we are in a state of change. We are embracing the needs of our markets, and allowing those needs to guide our innovative spirit. We are broadening what we value, adding team recognition to the existing focus on individuals. We are developing an understanding for interdependence, within the organization as well as between the organization and its environment. And finally, we are realizing that we can not walk away from our own insights. By keeping the conversation about our identity and our future alive, actual change is happening. This is not a bad place to be.

Uwe Weissflog uwe.weissflog@sdrc.com

STORIES is published online 3-4 times a year by the Open Space Institute
To subscribe, or to join OSI, contact Peggy Holman, osi@tmn.com.
To submit your story, contact Joelle Everett, editor, jleshelton@aol.com