Webster University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Grounded Theory Study

On The Value Associated With Using

Open Space Technology

 

 

By

 

Richard ‘D’ Norris

 

 

 

 

 

 


Abstract of the HRDV 6000 Report

A Grounded Theory Study On The Value Associated With Using Open Space Technology

By

Richard ‘D’ Norris

 

Webster University Merritt Island, FL

May 2000

 

            In today’s rapidly changing business environment, organizations are increasingly required to adapt to remain competitive.  Intervention strategies and tools to maximize performance, create value, nurture creativity and innovation focusing on the whole system aspects of organizations are growing in popularity.  One of these whole systems, participative work interventions is Open Space Technology (OST), a relative newcomer to today’s chaotic organizational landscape.

            OST is hailed as a powerful, self organizing, mega meetings manager and is said to be an enlightening way of experiencing new ways of “being in organization.”  It is in its infancy period of value assessment and is just now beginning to gain ground as an “experience” of choice by organizations worldwide.

As a result of it’s relative newness, very little collective information associated with the value of using OST is organized, analyzed and documented.  This research attempts to do this by analyzing value across the areas of Time Frame, Type and System.  The value analysis is further linked by relationships with contemporary theory and thought.  It will provide a meaningful point of departure for future research on OST concerning it’s impact on organizations and today’s diverse workforce. 

Based on the research findings, the value associated with using OST comes in a variety of forms.  The prime value noted is OST’s ability to help people move below the surface of their personal or organizational facade by uncovering what is already in existence but unseen.  OST’s Four Principles sand One Law is instrumental in dissolving barriers and allowing value to emerge in its most authentic state.  This supports and honors secondary, but no less important value associated with using OST:

               Sparks a transformation of personal and organizational relationships and roles.

               Creates an opportunity for awareness and discovery of an organization’s cultural strengths and weaknesses

               Promotes an organizational culture of high learning, spontaneous collaboration, creativity and mutual respect that is structured around interdependent constructs of passion and responsibility.

               Enables the emergence of a situationally appropriate environment for unleashing creativity and innovation in shaping change.

               Delivers an appropriate atmosphere for authentic community to emerge or remerge.

OST may well be the perfect research tool and intervention, adapting effortlessly with organizational change and without losing it’s value.  Any aspects of organizations would be prime territory for future research.  Suggested areas for evolutionary research relating to OST may include:  Communication Dynamics, Organizational Conscience, Organizations as Living Systems, Evolution of Leadership, Organizations as Communities, Learning Communities and Visioning.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their support as I pursued my Masters degree, and especially, while writing this research paper.

        Tim Pancake:  Thank you for a superb “whole brain” learning experience.  You sparked my imagination and provided me the opportunity to follow my heart and see the world of organizations through a different lens.  You are the perfect “change agent” model and collaborative colleague.  I am grateful to you for a cherished, valued and meaningful graduate program experience.

        Harrison Owen:  Your “elder wisdom” concerning the focus and framework of this research project is greatly appreciated.  Your simple words, insight and guidance showed me the right path to travel when many paths were available.  Thank you.

        Peggy Holman:  You were the first OST practitioner I spoke with as I began this research journey.  Your warm welcoming of me into the Open Space Community signaled that I had found an arena and community where I truly felt at home and appreciated.  Thank you for your Open Space Ambassadorship and initial support.

        Birgitt Williams:  You pushed my intellect and “gently” challenged my thoughts on OST.  You caused me to probe deeper both the content and process of this research project.  I appreciate and value your words of wisdom, authenticity and the “reality” checks.  Thank you.

        Jeanie Owens:  I am most grateful to you for your friendship and for checking in with me at “just the right time”.  Your concern for my well being is greatly appreciated and a valued gift in our relationship.

        Tara McArthur:  As polar opposites, you challenged my thoughts with persistent alternate viewpoints throughout all our graduate classes.  Thank you for being a valued team member/colleague and helping make my graduate and professional experiences rich and deeply rewarding.

        All Open Space List Serve Contributors:  Thanks for keeping the Open Space List Serve discussions lively and stimulating.  The daily E-mails kept me focused, current and on track and provided a great start on my daily research efforts.  Thank you all for your community spirit and willingness to share your Open Space experiences and deep depth of knowledge.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

SECTION I Introduction…………………………………………………………………1

 

            Defining the problem….………..………………………………………………....3

 

            Hypothesis………………………………………………………………………..4

 

            Assumptions……………………………………………………………………...4

 

            Need for Research………………………………………………………………..6

 

            Delimitation’s….………………………………………………………………….7

 

Limitations………………………………………………………………………..9

 

 

SECTION II Review of the Related Literature………………………..………………….10

 

What is Open Space Technology……………….………………………………..10

 

            Critical Elements of Open Space Technology………………………….…………12

 

            Time Requirements……………………………………………………..………..13

 

The Open Space Event…………………………….…………………………….14

 

Role of the Facilitator…………………………………………………………….18

 

Use, Deliverables and Benefits……………………………………………………18

 

 

SECTION III Methodology……………………………………………………………..20

 

            Topic Selection and Concurrence………………………………………………...20

 

            Performing the Research………………….…………………………….…….…..20

 

            Documenting the Results………………………………………………………….23

 

            Delimitations of the Survey Methodology..………………………………….…….23

 


 

SECTION IV Analysis of Results………………………………………………………...25

 

Introduction.……………………………………………………………………..26

 

Analysis..…………………………..………………….…………………………28

 

Proof of Hypothesis………………………………….…………………………..57

 

 

SECTION V Summary and Conclusions..……………………………………………..…58

 

            Summary….…………………………………………………………..…………58

 

            Conclusions……………………………………………..……………………….59

 

            Recommendations..……………………………………………………….……..59

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………………………….62

 

 

APPENDICES…………………………………………………………………..………65

 

A:            Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by Time Frame…………………….66

B:             Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by Type……………………………69

C:            Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by System…………………………72

 

D:            Extracted Value Related Qualitative Statements…………………..………………...75


 

LIST OF FIGURES

 

Figure                                                                                                                         Page

 

1.              Occurrence of Reported OST Related Value.  Time Frame.  ………………………….29

 

2.              Occurrence of Reported OST Related Value.  Year vs. Time Frame.  ………………..29

 

3.              Growth Sustainment Diagram.  …………………………………………………….…..31

 

4.              Occurrence of Reported OST Value.  Type.  ……………………………………….…38

5.              Schneider’s Four Organizational Core Culture Model.  ………………………….……..45

 

6.              Gap Analysis.  ………………………………………………………………………….48

 

7.              Occurrence of Reported OST Related Value. Type Vs System.  ………………….…..50

 

LIST OF TABLES

 

Table                                                                                                                           Page

 

1.              Open Space Technology Use, Deliverables and Benefits.  .………………………….19

 

2.              Occurrence of Value Specifically Linked Across Time Frame.  .…………………….30

 

3.              Qualitative Statements of Immediate Value.  ……………………….………………..32

 

4.              Qualitative Statements of Immediate Value, Majesco.  ………………………………35

 

5.              Qualitative Statements of Immediate Value, Mastek, Inc.  …………………………..36

 

6.              Qualitative Statements of Type Value.  ………………………………………………39

 

7.              Agile Organization Cultural Attribute / Reported Type Value Comparison.  ………....42

 

8.              Four Organizational Core Culture Briefs.  ……………………………………………45

 

9.              Similarities:  OST Related Type Value / Four Organizational Core Cultures.  ……..…46

 

10.          Occurrence of Value and Qualitative Statements.  OST Climate Allowed

(Shared Value by Subsystem).  ………………………………………………………51

 

11.          Organizations as Communities “C” Word Attributes.

Systems Value Association.  …………………………………………………………54

 


 

ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS

 

 

OST………………..Open Space Technology

 

OS…………………Open Space

 

TQM……………….Total Quality Management

 

OD…………………Organizational Development

 

 

 

 


SECTION I

Introduction

Throughout human history, humankind has endeared itself to creating an environment or conditions that add value to their lives.  Regardless of the times, some aspect of our interface with the world has been rearranged, transformed, created or eliminated in the name of “adding value” of some type at the personal level or for the collective whole of the groups which we ascribe ourselves to.

Most recently, ‘adding value” has broken out in a fever pitch as we head into the 21st century.  Virtually every type of group is intervening to improve their situation to ensure their survivability or realize their definition of success.  The most apparent examples of this can be found in today’s organizations.  Regardless of the motive, organizational leadership employs a multitude of techniques, tools and strategies to meet their organizational goals and business needs.  (Harvey, Brown, 1996).

Over the past 50 years a multitude of organizational change and enhancement tools were created and designed to assist organizations in leveraging their leadership potential, management abilities, maximize systems/process outcomes and improve employee relationships, capabilities and performance.  The 70’s and 80’s witnessed the popularization of Edward Demming’s Total Quality Management (TQM), Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid Program and OD Grid, Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership and Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  (Senge, 1999)  All were used with a high degree of success and still employed today.  The 90’s realized a renewed interest in viewing organizations from a whole systems perspective.  Chaos theory and biological foundations of self-organization have increasingly sparked leadership’s imagination and are fast becoming the lens for viewing leadership roles and organizational behavior.  (Wheatly, 1994).

Spawned from this collective reflection are new perspectives on organizations.  Receiving a great deal of attention and discussion are Peter Senge’s as Learning Organization, the notion of creating and maintaining boundryless organizations and the organizational flattening effect of cross functional teaming.  All of these have lead to a renewed and refocused use of intervention tools that engage the organization as a whole system for creating the future (Future Search, ICA Strategic Planning Process), addressing work design (The Conference Model, Real Time Work Design, Participative Design) and employing whole system participative work (Simu Real, Work-Out, Open Space Technology.  (Bunker, Alban, 1997).

Slowly becoming a part of the organizational landscape is Open Space Technology OST whose core concepts are drawn from the traditions of Native America, basic idea from a small West African village, and the wisdom of the East.  The creation of OST was a collaborative effort involving perhaps thousands of people on four continents.  (Owen, 1997)  For this reason, OST is said to be a World Product, and in fact has been used by organizations worldwide with reported highly successful outcomes.

In essence, OST is predominately a highly collaborative, self organizing meetings manager which works with groups ranging in size from 5-1000 and requires only one facilitator.  It allows groups to experience first hand self managed work teams, utilization of diversity without training and distributed leadership and at the same time helps them achieve their organizational goals.  In all instances and regardless of the type of diversity present:  organizational culture, education levels, culture, social position, economics, politics or ethnicity etc. or the theme for its use, OST seems to work well.  (Owen, 1997).

OST practitioners and participants of OST events report their experience with Open Space Technology as being of “value” to them in one form or another.  As members of groups and organizations is this value personal in nature, organizational or both?  What types of value are associated with using OST?  And what linkages are there between this value and contemporary theory that may be useful to organizational leaders?  The answer to these questions is the hopeful end state of this research project.

Defining the Problem

Does the use of Open Space Technology deliver value?  The gut response to this question has been a resounding “yes” from organizations using OST and from participants of OST events.  Even with a strong affirmative response another question unfolds.  “What value is associated with using Open Space Technology?”

The bulk of OST data supporting this affirmative position, lies in stories generated by Open Space practitioners and in the “Hearts and Minds” of those who participated in an Open Space Event.  This OST qualitative data is readily available in the form of documented stories/accounts of Open Space events, books on OST, journals, articles, research abstracts and proposals and on Internet Websites.

For some, the qualitative data is enough to satisfy their belief need as it applies to the value associated with using OST.  For many others, particularly decision makers and leaders of organizations, who are accustomed to fact-based decision-making, the qualitative data barely hits the mark.  They require quantifiable fact (numbers) and documented linked relationships with contemporary theory to actualize their belief need as it applies to the value of using OST.

Buried in this scattered collection of data may be keys and clues answering what personal and organizational value is associated when using OST.  Additionally the qualitative data has not been organized, synthesized and reflected upon through the eyes of contemporary theory.

Hypothesis

“What value is associated with using Open Space Technology?”  This hypothesis seeks to determine and organize the reported value realized from using OST.  Additionally the hypothesis will seek to highlight which organizational areas leadership may reflect on to further quantify this value within organizations.  Finally the research will attempt to determine meaningful connections with this value and contemporary theory that may be useful to current and future organizational leadership.

Assumptions

The first assumption deals with value.  It is assumed that some form of value was realized by using OST.  This assumption is based on the notion that value is anything meaningful to the individual or organization and the participants or practitioners actualized that value on some level.  It is also assumed the value realized is directly relational to the participants or practitioners experience from using OST and not a judgment based on comparison with other intervention tools.

The second assumption involves the adherence to the four principle and one law (operational norms) that guide participants and practitioners when utilizing OST.  It is assumed that all OST practitioners facilitated the events in a similar fashion.  This means that at a minimum, the four principles and one law were clarified to the participants up front and that the facilitator remained true and upheld these operational norms throughout the event.  It is further assumed that the participants reporting accounts of OST events also upheld the four principles and one law.

The next assumption concerns the qualitative data.  Qualitative data is very subjective and reports what has been perceived or experienced by the individual or observer.  It is assumed that the body of data used in this research is fully representative of factual, non-biased accounts of value realized from using OST.

An additional assumption is made that anyone reading or using this study may be unfamiliar the basic principles of OST and what process the participants experience when attending an OST event.  To ease this assumption, Section II, Review of Related Literature, will be used to provide an overview of OST to familiarize the reader with OST’s basic foundations and implementation practice.

Finally it is assumed that the researcher is considered a non-biased reporter of the facts.  Supporting this assumption is the fact that the researcher has not experienced an Open Space event and is prejudiced only by the documented data read.  Additionally in support, the researcher has completed graduate level courses highlighting individual prejudices, learning style, personality factors and personal self-mastery.  This “self knowledge” has been actualized, exercised, tested and screened for bias through experiential exercises as applied to the field of Human Resources Development.


Need for Research

            Very little formal research has been conducted directly related to OST.  In today’s business environment, organizations are increasing required to develop collaboration into their organizational structures.  With this comes the necessity to collaborate outside the organization’s boundaries and completely understand the organization’s interdependencies and interconnectedness from a whole systems perspective.  A result a need is created to closely look at whole system interventions and the current and potential impact they may have on organizations.  Because OST is still in it’s infancy as an intervention tool, it’s use may be having a dramatic short and long term affect on organizations whose value is yet to be determined.  This research will be added to the current small body of research and will begin to provide organizational leadership and OST practitioners with greater insight concerning the value associated with OST and it’s impact on organizations and communities that serve them.  It will help begin the narrowing of focus on organizational areas of concern where OST related impact and value may be further studied within the organization..

Currently, publicly available data related to OST is predominately qualitative in nature.  This disparity does not provide a whole picture view of the qualitative aspect of documented qualitative data.  Adding the next step of quantifying the qualitative data may bring a deeper understanding of the value associated with using OST.  This is needed to assist OST practitioners and organizations in making a fact based choice when regarding the use of OST as an intervention tool.  Additionally it may help provide clarity and support for the use of OST when change driven fears emerge.

            There is a growing need to determine the best use of OST and how it merges with contemporary theory currently employed in organizations.  In today’s rapidly changing business environment organizational boundaries are merging with others or are becoming non-existent.  This rapid change imperative requires organizations to become “chameleon like” like in order rapidly adapt to the environment and remain competitive and successful.  Shifting to new organizational thought and approaches requires careful and well thought out intervention strategies to avoid “culture shock”, particularly when contemplating the use of self-organizing organizational enhancement tools such as OST.  Determining the value of using OST should aide in gaining a richer appreciation for OST’s potential as a possible model for learning organizations, diversity management and collaborative leadership needed to support organizations of the 21st century and beyond.

Delimitations

In this research, value is considered as anything of meaning or worth to the individual or organization.  Examples of what may be of value to individuals and organizations may be profits gained, improved efficiency, clarity of ideas, synergy, unleashed creativity, improved communication networks, personal growth, development of strategic plans, etc.  For the purpose of this study, value is delimited in three ways:

        Immediate value - Value immediately realized by participants and practitioners during an OST event.

        Post event value - Value realized after and OST event.  The duration of time to realize the value is not considered.

        Potential value - Value that has not yet been realized and the possible areas where it may be realized in the future.

            This delimitation is made because the majority of qualitative data recounts OST event experiences and describes immediate and post event value reactions to this encounter.  Additionally, many recounts project the potential uses of OST that may be of value, both personally and organizationally.

The scope of this study is also delimited to the arenas of leadership, vision, community (employees) and management.  These arenas model a system contained in every organization and also individually at the personal level, as people manage and make decisions about their lives.  For some these systems are viewed as being distinctly separate.  As an example, an individual may value community in their personal lives and not place the same level of value in their relationships within the organization.  For others the value of community is of prime importance in their organizational relationship as well as personally.  For this reason this research does not delimit the connection between the organization or individual as always being distinctly separate.

            Another area of consideration deals with the qualitative data.  Many OST events have taken place in the past 15 years and the documented qualitative data associated with these are privately maintained by practitioners (consultants) and buried in organizational records, which are not publicly available.  For this reason qualitative data is delimited to data gathered over the Internet (stories, email, journal and magazine articles) and published literature directly reporting on the use of OST.  This data is the opinion of individuals as they reported their experiences and thoughts concerning their interaction with OST.  No OST events were available for the researcher to attend for data collection purposes.  To fully determine the scope of value of using OST further research using other qualitative and quantitative research methodologies is required.

Limitations

            The scope of this research is limited by the time constraints required for research completion by Webster University for grade.  Constraint dates are 12 January - 10 May, 2000.  This limitation causes this study to function as a preamble to future and expanded research of this type.

            Additionally the study is limited to Open Space Technology and related contemporary theory and thought.  Other whole systems interventions are not addressed.


SECTION II

Review of the Related Literature

            The review of related literature will be a departure from the traditional process of research.  The results of the qualitative methodology used in this research will drive the direction of the literature review, which will be merged into the Analysis of Results, Section IV.

This section will be used as a familiarization piece on OST.  It will highlight the critical elements of OST and attempt to describe the functional aspects of an Open Space event.  It serves to increase the readers general knowledge and understanding of OST providing a baseline of information needed to fully digest and synthesis the analysis of results.

What is Open Space Technology?

The history of OST origination is indeed a unique story.  Harrison Owen, the central originator and initial creative spark of OST made a commitment to orchestrating a conference on organizational transformation.  (Owen, 1992).  In post conference reflection he realized that the best moments and most useful parts of the conference happened during the coffee breaks.  This reflection sparked the question, “was it possible to combine the level of synergy and excitement present in a good coffee break with the substantive activity and results characteristic of a good meeting…… a conference that was “all coffee breaks”?  (Owen, 1992).

Harrison Owen’s experiences in West Africa gave rise to focusing on the design of African villages where he noted communication transpires effortlessly.  Villages are arranged in a circular fashion having a common marketplace or gathering place and a community bulletin board.  From these concepts he created the general structure for Open Space Technology.  (Bunker, Alban, 1997).

Open Space Technology is difficult to describe and explain, mainly due to its simplicity of character and implementation.  Regardless it has been described by many and in very different ways.  Each description is as unique as the individual describing or defining OST.  Birgitt Bolton, an OST practitioner captures the essence of the many descriptions in this way:

 

“Open Space Technology is a meeting methodology that helps individuals and groups become more effective in work environments that are rapidly and constantly changing by developing their skills as lifelong learners and collaborative problem solvers.  It creates the conditions so that the maximum potential of the individual and the organization to be realized. Open Space Technology captures the knowledge, experience and innovation in the organization that is not captured through less open processes.” (Bolton, 1998)

 

This description in itself does not explain the process of OST.  So how does Open Space Technology work?  This question also might be answered with a diverse group of explanations dependent on the perception of an individual’s OST experience.  Within this diversity of responses lies a set of critical elements that provide the foundation for OST to be realized when signaled into action.  Harrison Owen provides an outline of the critical elements in his book Open Space Technology, A Users Guide (1997).  The outline is provided below.


Critical Elements of Open Space Technology

The Four Mechanisms

        Circle:  The geometry of Open Space that creates the conditions of the meeting.  Allows for unobstructed face-to-face communication.  Neutralizes the conditions of “power” created by other geometric models (square, triangle, rectangle).  It is the geometry of wholeness, inclusiveness and completeness.

        Breath.

A metaphor for the life grounding quality of Open Space.  OST is not a mechanical process, rather it is about creating a space where life can expand or said metaphorically:  breathe.

        Bulletin Board.

Regardless of ones location in the world there is some form of mechanism which one can use to announce their concerns.  The bulletin board serves this function of “issue raiser” in Open Space.

        Market Place.

When humans have something to trade or exchange, a market place of some form is created.  In Open Space the market place serves as an organizer.

The Four Principles

        Whoever comes is the right people.

        Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

        Whenever it starts is the right time.

        When it’s over, it’s over.


The One Law

        The Law of Two Feet:

The Four Conditions for Use

        High levels of complexity.

        High levels of diversity.

        High potential or actual conflict.

        A decision time of yesterday.

Engines of Open Space

        Passion.

        Responsibility.

Time Requirements

Opening space in any organization usually begins with an event.  After the event, the law, principles, and rituals of Open Space Technology assume different forms, depending on particular circumstances and organizational intent.  Events normally last anywhere from 1-3 days. depending on the clients needs.  It is recommended by many OST practitioners that a minimum of 2 days allotted for participants to be in Open Space for the full benefits of OST to be realized.  This is not a hard and fast rule as Open Space Technology is very forgiving.  The time spent during a second or third day allows for convergence of issues and action taken on them.  One could say it allows OST to come full circle or more complete in it’s effectiveness.  What is notable though is more than 3 days of focus in Open Space seems to surpass peoples capacity for sustained energy and passion as a collective whole.

Harrison Owen also recommends in his book Open Space Technology, A Users Guide (1997) the following core schedule for a three (3) day OST event.

First Day

9:00 - 10:30                 Start and agenda setting

10:30 - 12:00               First session

12:00 - 1:30                 Lunch available

1:30 - 3:00                   Second session

3:00 - 4:30                   Third session

4:30 - 5:00                   Evening news

 

(If a one day event, evening news converts to closing and time should be extended by 1/2 hour)

 

Second Day

9:00 - 9:30                   Morning announcements

9:30 - 11:00                 First session

11:00 - 12:30               Second session

12:30 - 2:00                 Lunch available

2:00 - 3:30                   Third session

3:30 - 5:00                   Fourth session

5:00 - 5:30                   Evening news

 

(If a two day event, evening news converts to closing and time should be extended by 1/2 hour)

 

Third Day

9:00 - 10:30                 Read and prioritize issues

10:30 - 11:00               Compute results

11:00 - 12:00               Converge issues / develop actions

12:00 - 1:00                 Lunch available

1:00 - 2:00                   Action groups meet

2:00 -   3:00                 Closing

 

The Open Space Event

The following extract from Anne Stadler’s article, Open Space - A Simple Way of Being, (1998), provides a synopsis of life in an Open Space Event.

In the Open Space event, there's a group rhythm similar to breathing:  breathing in (the whole circle comes together - start and agenda setting), breathing out (the circle breaks up and forms smaller circles in the marketplace - sessions) and breathing in (the whole circle comes back together - converge issues / develop actions).

Calling the Circle

Calling the circle starts with inviting spirit, and then, people.  Questions to ask when planning an Open Space event:  What is our purpose for this gathering?  What is the spirit we want to communicate?  Who are the stakeholders we need to convene so that the whole system (circle) will be in the room?

When people arrive at the event, they sit in a circle, establishing that everyone is essential.  There is no head table, no special place for experts.  In the center of the circle are tools: sheets of newsprint and felt pens.  One wall of the room (the Agenda Wall) is entirely blank.  It is the space on which the group will create its own agenda.  Computers are lined up on tables in front of a News Wall.  That is where people will record sessions they have convened, creating the record of the group's activities and sharing their learning.

Opening the Circle

Inviting Spirit.  The convener welcomes the group and talks about the focal theme of the gathering and his or her own hopes for the event.  He or she may also describe any boundary conditions, such as ongoing organizational processes into which the meeting fits.

Opening the Circle.  The facilitator acknowledges the essential relationship of each person to the group's endeavor.  She or he describes how the group will self-organize and briefly articulates the one law and four principles of Open Space. 

The Law of Two Feet.  This pathway to freedom invites spirit into the group by asking each person to take responsibility for what he or she truly cares about.  That means show up, pay attention to what has heart and meaning for you, and use your two feet to move to whatever place you can best contribute.  If you are not learning or contributing then use the Law of Two Feet.

Four Open Space principles articulate the simple epistemology of an open circle:

1.      Whoever comes are the right people.  Those attracted to a particular topic are the people who can contribute most because they really care about it.  So even if your bitter enemy is sitting in the circle with you, your task is to find out what you both care about and build on that.  If you cannot, there's always the Law of Two Feet.

2.      Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.  This principle acknowledges that you'll do your best to be open to whatever happens, in the present time and place, and not be constrained by what you think could have or should have happened.

3.      Whenever it starts is the right time.  The creative spirit has its own time, and our task is to make our best contribution, entering the flow of creativity whenever it starts.

4.      When it's over, it's over.  Creativity has its own rhythm.  So do groups.  Pay attention to the flow of creativity, not to the clock.

Creating the marketplace.

The facilitator creates the marketplace by inviting anyone who chooses to step into the center of the circle, pick up a sheet of paper and a pen, and write down a topic he or she cares about.  The person announces the topic, identifies a time and place for people to meet, and posts the topic on the Agenda Wall.  This process continues until there are no additional items to post.  Then people sign up for whatever topic appeals.

Whoever posts a topic convenes the session, makes certain it is facilitated, and sees that a report is generated for posting on the News Wall and circulation to the whole group in a final report.

Marketplace

After the opening circle, people meet in self-chosen groups during the day. They are responsible for their own schedules, for exchanging ideas and creating whatever outcomes each small group may produce.

Convergence

            All convenor reports are combined into a report that is distributed to the group for reading.  The group is then asked to read the report and identify the ten issues most significant to them and rank these in priority order.  Each individual votes using their priority selections (by computer or by hand) and the results are tabulated and displayed.

            Next the top 10 voted on issues are displayed on chart packs and individuals are asked to add which other convenor reports are associated with the top ten issues and add an action step for the issue.  Action groups focused around the ten top issues are convened and action planning recommendations are made.  This is captured and added to the final report.

Reflection (Evening News)

People come together in the whole circle at the conclusion of the event (or the conclusion of each day in a multi-day event).  Everyone is encouraged to contribute to a learning exchange so the group itself can learn.  A talking stick or dialogue approach is commonly used.  This is not a time for discussion. It's a period of deep reflection and shared learning.

Closing the Circle

At the end of any Open Space gathering, the final actions are those of closing:  commitments to further action and offering of thanks and acknowledgments.

Role of the Facilitator

 

Barbara Bunker and Billie Alban provide a superb description of the facilitator’s role, in their book Large Systems Interventions (1997).  It provides a clear basic understanding of this role in the Open Space environment.

It may seem that the Open Space facilitator hasn't much to do after the opening session. In terms of the usual role of scheduling and controlling activities associated with "facilitation," this is certainly true.  On the other hand, the facilitator's real role is to "hold the space": allowing the process to develop and intervening only if anyone is interfering with others' rights to choice by dominating or insisting that everyone must go along with his or her ideas.  What happens in Open Space, however, is always new and unpredictable.  Not taking action can be just as important an act in holding the space as doing something.  Therefore, figuring out how to hold the space is not always either simple or easy. (Bunker, Alban, 1997)

 

Use, Deliverables and Benefits

 

            The process of Opening Space and the mechanics of it’s process are straight forward and relatively simple in design.  It’s simplicity makes OST a very usable and flexible tool.  One expects that any product an organization uses should provide some type of deliverable that benefits the organization and it’s’ people.  A collection of uses, deliverables and benefits are provided in Table 1.  Table 1’s contents are derived from a collection of “Nuggets” assembled by Birgitt Williams.  Contributors to this collection include, Harrison Owen, Barbara Bunker, Billie Alban, Birgitt Williams, and other notable OST practitioners.  (Williams, 2000).
Table 1  Open Space Technology Use, Deliverables and Benefits.

What types of issues is Open Space Technology best used for?

Almost any business issue.

Strategic direction setting.

Smoother transitioning of the people part of new IT and other technology related processes.

Envisioning the future.

Identifying the issues and opportunities to realize the desired future.

Conflict resolution.

Morale building.

Learning new material.

Product development.

Leadership development.

Community building.

Public input forums.

Conferences.

Improving communication.

Organizational transformation to a high performing and high learning organization.

 

What types of organizations is Open Space Technology Best Used For?

Communities.

Large, small, mid-sized corporations in the private sector.

Large, small and mid-sized non-profit organizations in the public sector.

Cities, Provinces/States, Countries.

Large, small, and mid-sized government organizations.

Large, small and mid-sized non-government organizations.

Organizations that are newly forming.

Established organizations.

Organizations that are ending.

 

Deliverables of Open Space Technology

Every single issue that anybody cares about enough to raise will be "on the table".

All issues will receive as much discussion as people care to give them.

All discussion will be captured in a book, and made available to the participants.

All issues will be prioritized.

Related issues will be converged.

Responsibility will be taken for next step actions.

What are the benefits of using Open Space Technology?

Breakthrough learning.

Appropriate structure.

Genuine community.

Spirited performance.

Playful involvement.

High efficiency.

High productivity.

Shared leadership.

Growth from within.

Elimination of barriers to doing a job quickly with excellence and pride.

When should Open Space Technology not be used?

Open Space Technology should not be used if the formal leadership in the organization needs to control the outcome.  In other words, if there are no real degrees of freedom to use wonder, imagination and creativity.


SECTION III

Methodology

 

Topic Selection and Concurrence

            The objective of this research is to begin to provide organizational leadership and OST practitioners with greater insight concerning the value associated with the use of OST.  With verbal concurrence of Mr. Tim Pancake, the Webster University Space Coast Campus HRDV Mentor, a Grounded Theory approach to this study was selected.

            The Grounded Theory methodology selection was made due to the significant amount of accessible qualitative data, the limited amount of quantitative data available on OST and the need to connect this data to contemporary theory.  Selection was also made on the basis that this methodology may best provide direction for future research on OST and it’s value to organizations and stakeholders.

            Surveys were not conducted as a part of this research, as the study relies on qualitative information, as it’s prime data resource.  Qualitative data, in the form of text, was accessed via electronic means:  Internet web sites, email list serves, electronic magazines and journals.  The Ethnograph v5.04 Qualitative Data Analysis Software was used to code, collate and organize the text data for synthesis.  The qualitative data results are capture and referenced in Appendices A through D

Performing the Research

            This research was conducted during the time frame of 15 December 1999 through 10 May, 2000.  To ascertain the value of using OST, qualitative data was collected electronically over a period of 3 months, 15 December 1999 through 14 February 2000.  Eighty-seven (87) articles and email list serve documents, spanning a date range of 1993-1999 were reviewed for inclusion as sources of primary qualitative data.  Of these, thirty-six (36) documents were found to be suitable for use as a part of this study.  Documents filtered out were not recounts of OST events but solely addressed the mechanics conducting an OST event (room setup, materials needed, timelines and format information etc.)  Those eliminated did not recount experiences of value when using OST.

            To facilitate data management and organize the data for analysis, documents containing potential data were imported to a word processing computer program and prepared for importing into Ethnograph v 5.04.  Once imported, each document was coded and moved to a predetermined project location.

Next, each file was reviewed for instances of reported value.  Each data segment identified was coded for association within a code family.  Code families were further broken down into parent groups. 

The following code families and parent groups were initially established to begin the data coding processes:

Time frame

        Immediate:  Value realized during an OS event.

        Post:  Value realized after an OS event.

        Potential:  Value not yet realized but reported as a possibility in the future.

Type

        Personal: Value of personal importance to the individual.

        Organizational: Value of organizational importance.

System

        Management: Value related specifically to management.

        Leadership: Value related specifically to leadership.

        Vision: Value related specifically to vision.

        Community: Value related specifically to community (employees).

Use

        Actual:  Topics or issues where OST was used as intervention.

        Future:   Topic or issues where OST may be used as an intervention in the future.

Cost

        Reported monetary savings and expenses associated with using OST.

Results

        Reported specific results of using OST.

            After each file’s family and parent group were identified and coded an additional review of each parent group in the file was conducted.  This was done to determine subgroups of specific aspects and attributes of value.  These were coded and located under the parent group as a child group.

Coded data was entered, organized and compared for patterns and trends to determine relationships within the parent and child groups.  The following process was used to tease out the meaningful aspects of the data and begin relationship recognition.

        Individual parent group incidents of occurrence.

        Relationships of grouping of Time frame, Type and System parent groups.

        Child group incidents of occurrence in each parent group.

Finally the data results were examined for relatedness and similarities with existing contemporary theory.  Parent and child group data provided the frame work to guide the research in determining what value is associated with using OST and it’s relationship to contemporary theory.

Documenting the Results

Seven (7) figures are used to display primary and theoretical models of interest as a part of the analysis of results.  Documentation of the value related data is initially displayed from a macro view (family groups).  Eleven (11) tables are used to supplement and clarify data when supplemental child group data is large and would be confusing in figure form.  Tables used show incidents of occurrence of value related data in descending order (most to least).  This allows for comparison across child groups and within family groups.  Additionally, in some instances, qualitative value statements are included in the tables to add character, clarification and amplification of the qualitative data.

            Contemporary theory is woven into the analysis of results based on its relationship to the data results and its value to the theory.  As an example, value noted in data analysis as predominate from the use of OST may also be predominate or central to a contemporary theory.  This relationship’s similarities and differences are highlighted in table format and serve to drive the analysis.

Delimitations of the Survey Methodology

Qualitative research normally includes triangulation by one or more researchers through observations, interviews and reviewing reports and records. (Leedy, 1997).  The opportunity for classic qualitative research triangulation did not exist in this instance of research.  For this reason, triangulation of data is considered delimited to existing accessible documents directly related to OST.  The diverse spectrum of the data collected across time (1993-1999), organizational type, article authors, continents and usage is considered satisfactory triangulation and meets the research needs of this study.


SECTION IV

Analysis of Results

As a preamble to the analysis of results this researcher would like to make a few comments to frame this story you are about to read.  I use the word “story “ because that is exactly what this is……a story about the value associated with using Open Space Technology.  It contains personal anecdotes about the engagement of the human spirit at work and play and has a tone that might be characterized as an “organizational drama”.  At times it reads like a fiction about the possibilities of the future with OST as a variable.

            From the very beginning I had no idea where the storyline would travel.  As the data unfolded it indicated the direction of the analysis’s movement.  You will find that that the story starts with shifting of organizational culture across time frame, weaves through personal and organizational perspective of value and culminates in the arena of “organizations as communities.”  It dips deep in some areas, shallow in others and melds personal and organizational perspectives of value.  Throughout it provides a diverse set of reflection opportunities for one’s imagination to roam in the direction of one’s choosing…. past, present or the future.

            Finally, one of the initial goals of this study was to for this research to act as a stimulus for future research related to OST…..not an endpoint.  It is this researchers hope that this story provides meaningful and useful connections for anyone to use as launching points for the evolution of new stories to unfold.


Introduction

What is the value associated with using Open Space Technology?  On the surface, OST seems natural in design, primal in its cultural attributes and overly simple in delivery.  With these characteristics one may begin to question how much value can be gleaned by its use and what might this value be?

As highlighted in Section II, OST has been used for a wide variety of reasons.  In each instance, value was realized in one form or another.  As an overture to a closer inspection of the value reported it might be worth highlighting the least mentioned form of value gleaned in the research…monetary profits.  A review of all documents used in collecting the primary data showed only two reports of actual profit and both where only rough estimates.  One of these reports comes from Nigel Rawlins, an OST practitioner.

I ran a half day workshop with blue collar metal workers.  Half day on “Dying for Customer and Company".  The manager was worried about health and safety.  However once it started there were a number of issues that came up but the most important one was about cutting the metal and storing the off cut and where they could find it next time they needed it.  As they say in Open Space Technology, be prepared to be surprised.

 

This decision probably saved them over 100K over the year.  Solved because they had the opportunity to raise an issue of concern to themselves and solve it their way.  Mind you they had a manual saying how they should do it.  These were pretty tough guys with low education but they excelled using this process and then went on to tell visiting U.S. consultants and senior managers that this was the best day's training they had ever been involved in.  They learned, as many do in OS, that if something has to be done they have to take the responsibility to make it happen.  (Rawlins, 1999)

 

This story, posted on the Open Space list serve drew many comments from its subscribers.  Harrison Owen highlighted the story as Open Space Wizardry.  Nigel provided a response email as a follow up to the story that brings into question the value associated with using OST.


It was a strange case and I must admit I was worried that the guys involved might not even be able to read.  The story was quite interesting because I was embarrassed by my charging the group quite a lot for a half day session- $800, it's a bit more than I would normally charge, but being a BHP subsidiary (BHP was one of Australia's largest companies, pre e-commerce days) and the manager didn't blink so I assumed that they could afford it.

 

The immediate return was a very obvious $8000, a ten times increase based on time, productivity and materials.  The manager and I worked it out after the session. The $100K I extrapolated from there, over time, possibly longer than a year though.  So I think they got the best part of the bargain after all.

 

One of the big problems I come across is the question of value and how much we should charge for an open space facilitation, after all, we just sit there (not really).  What's it worth if holding the space saves them $1000's?  Yet nothing happens unless the group takes responsibility and does something because it is important to them.  It's pretty hard to put a value on Open Space, but in this case it was black and white. (Rawlins, 2000)

 

            No doubt, Nigel Rawlins was questioning the value of his services in monetary terms by reflecting through the eyes of OST’s value to the client.  This is one of two instances, found while conducting this study of an actual mention of value in monetary terms.  The second is an amplification of monetary value by Harrison Owen stemming from his work in October 1993 with the Rockport Company, a subsidiary of Reebok International.

There was a time when I did an Open Space for a $300 million company -- small but quite well known.  The CFO was furious.  We basically closed the company for two whole days.  He figured it cost him a Million a day.  Anyhow, but the end of the first day, in addition to a whole mess of other stuff, the folks had designed a new product (including manufacturing and marketing plans) and re-designed their inventory system.  The CFO figured the first was worth $24 million a year, and the second saved $4 million.  Total addition to the bottom line in 8 hours $28 Million.  Not to shabby, considering the folks also had fun.  (Owen, 2000)

 

As can be seen from the two reports, OST can bring great potential for creating value in monetary terms.  But value is not limited to just dollars and cents.  Value can be defined in many ways according to Webster’s New World Dictionary. (Neufeldt, 1990).

1.      The worth of a thing in money or goods. Estimated worth.

2.      Purchasing power

3.      That quality of a thing that makes it more or less desirable, useful, etc.

4.      A thing of quality having intrinsic worth.

5.      Belief or standards.

6.      Relative, duration, intensity, etc.

            The two reports of monetary value definitely align with # 1 and #2 of Webster’s definition of value.  But OST has been used by many other organizations.  The “Balance Sheets” of these organizations may reflect a more specific accounting of the Return On Investment (ROI) related to using OST.  Unfortunately these value statements are unavailable.

What is available are qualitative reports of value which are more in alignment with # 4 through #7 of Webster’s definition.  Primary data gleaned from these reports, as described in Section III, is displayed quantitatively and provides a snapshot of value encompassing the areas of Time Frame, Type and System.  Significant patterns and trends noted in the primary data are displayed in variety of charts, graphs and tables in the remainder of this section and appendices A through D.  These are depicted in a manner that highlights the data and illuminates the value relationships within the primary data and to existing contemporary theories and models.

Analysis

The initial draw of data related to Time Frame as shown in Figure 1 indicate of 369 reported occurrences of value, 235/59.3% (more than half were realized during an Open Space event (immediate).

Figure 1.  Occurrence of Reported OST Related Value.  Time Frame.

Looking at the initial slope of drop off across time frame one notices that immediate value realized appears to drop off when compared to the post OST event time frame. Even when looking across years of reports the same pattern appears to hold true as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Occurrence of Reported OST Related Value.  Year vs. Time Frame.

.

Immediate and post are two distinct time frames and prompt several questions to arise concerning the relationship of value across these time frames.

        Did the specific reported immediate value sustain itself beyond the immediate time frame and continue to be the same value but merely amplified as post value?

        Is the post value reported new value and not specifically linked to the specific immediate value?

        Is there a linkage between the immediate and post value and if so what is the value of this connection.

Table 2 depicts the number of directly reported occurrences of value directly stated as being the same value but transferred to another time frame.  As can be seen very little value was reported as directly that sustained itself beyond it’s realization time frame.

Table 2  Occurrence of Value Specifically Linked Across Time Frame.

 

Total Reported Incidents of Occurrence

Immediate

Post

Potential

Immediate

235

 

2

0

Post

106

2

 

0

Potential

55

0

0

 

 

This phenomenon is not uncommon in life and organizations as all people encounter barriers or resisting forces to growth and sustainment.  These usually require effort and energy to overcome these constraints.(Senge, 1994)  One might expect the value realized would carry over and grow in ones organization.  As shown in Figure 3 several patterns of behavior are possible concerning growth and sustainment.

Figure 3  Growth Sustainment Diagram

 

 

Several possibilities unfold when viewing the trends of OST related value through the lens of the diagram

First, if OST performs, value immediately realized will grow rapidly during the OST event (immediate value).  This appears to be occurring with 235 incidents of occurrence of value being immediate.  Samplings of the 235 qualitative statements used in this study indicating immediate value are offered in Table 3.


Table 3.  Qualitative Statements of Immediate Value

Qualitative Statement

Value

The closest thing to pure empowerment I have seen.

Empowerment

One of the most significant tangible results was the commitment to greater collaboration by the leadership.

Commitment

Got the leadership in the same room to discuss their interdependence and acknowledge the need for on-going collaboration.

Involvement

Awareness

Collaboration

People gave voice to their passions, spoke their truth and took responsibility for the work they said should be done.

Increased responsibility

Brought together people who are ordinarily separated by functional boundaries and stovepipe mentalities.

Integration

Removed barriers

Helped create communication/action that supported the inherent creativity and leadership in people.

Creativity

Leadership

Improved Communication

A strong sense of community emerged.

Community

Boundaries that previously separated employees disappeared, as new relationships emerged based on common concerns and interests.

Removed barriers

Changed relationships

As the levels of access to information increased, new relationships were formed that created new, diverse networks for communications and cooperation.

Changed relationships

Shared information

Changed networks

An explosion of leadership capacity resulted from the fact that no one was in charge of the Open Space meeting.  Leadership was shared among the participants and varied from meeting to meeting.

Shared leadership

 

Sparked life in individuals and the meeting.  Created passion wrapped in responsibility and creativity grounded in realism.

Spirit

Passion

Creativity

Responsibility

 

Second, if this value is maintained and carried over into the organization, becoming post value, it would be said to plateau and considered in equilibrium.  Had this occurred the figures reported previously in Table 2, Occurrence of Value Specifically Linked Across Time Frame would be much greater in number.  But this is not the case quantitatively.

The third possibility is that value realized overshoots it’s constraints and crashes or dies off in importance in the organization.  Constraints may be the organizations values; it’s cultural norms or even the organization’s structure.  (Senge, 1999).  Possibly the value was not in alignment with the organizations culture and may not fit comfortably within the daily life or culture of the organization creating a conflict in values.(Harvey, Brown, 1996).  A result of this conflict, constraining forces may be seen as resistance by those attempting to carry the value forward.  Energy and effort required to capitalize and sustain the value beyond its immediate realization may have gradually ebbed away or dissipated.  (Johnson, Johnson, 1997).  A review of the articles used to amass the primary data provided no information that this was occurring, although it is a possibility.

Significant in the time frame data is the fact that 106 occurrences of post event value were reported.  This post value was not specifically reported as the same value as the immediate value carried over beyond the OST event.  There were two (2) exceptions where immediate value was cited as carried over beyond the immediate time frame.  These are chronicled in the article entitled The Evolution Of a Software Company , (Sundar, Kapia, 1996).

The article described how, in 1995, Open Space Technology helped the evolution of two divisions of a the Mastek, Inc. software company:  Mastek, Inc., a 700-person software company headquartered in Bombay, India, and Majesco, its U.S. subsidiary, in Santa Clara, California.  Each organization decided to adopt Open Space Technology as a way to achieve these aims

        Mastek's goal was to be a premier software company that optimizes its products and services through maximum participation of its people.

        Majesco's aim was to establish a foundation or growing an organization based on the aspirations and efforts of all employees.

Majesco also had a vision for what it wanted in terms of post value. “We had wanted to build a sense of shared ownership and belonging that would continue after the Open Space event.

In May, 1995, Mastek, Inc. “opened up its space” for the emergence of a collective vision.  Majesco also Opened Space to achieve it’s goals.  The Open Space events proceeded as is normal for any Open Space event.  Immediate and post value noted resulting from the Open Space events for both organizations are provided in Tables 4 and 5.


Table 4. Qualitative Statements of Immediate Value, Majesco.

 

Qualitative Statement

Time

Frame

Value

Majesco

 

 

There was a sense of togetherness.

Immediate

Inclusion

On the morning of the closing day, we released a draft of the entire proceedings.  The topics covered in the proceedings and the recommendations made were so numerous that it was difficult to believe how much had been accomplished in just two days.

Immediate

Improved productivity

Improved efficiency

Meeting effectiveness

The key achievement at the event was the coming together of 40 people in a manner that transcended traditional meetings, conferences, and organizational events.

Immediate

Inclusion

Achievement

Active participation in sales by engineers started at the Open Space with an item put up by one of the company's sales people.  Throughout the following year, engineers helped to bring in new business.

Post

Collaboration

Integration

Involvement

Concerned employees generated quality standards for technical training.  A training policy evolved and was written up.

Post

Improved productivity

Quality

Training

Everyone participated in reducing costs

Post

Involvement

Subtle culture change began to take place. Meeting in a circle became the norm for monthly company meetings.  Before the Open Space event, these information-sharing meetings were characterized as "one person talking and everyone else listening.”

Post

Culture Change

Transformation

Shared information

Improved communication

People were taking responsibility for what they cared about, so they would report progress, initiate conversations, and raise questions.

Post

Responsibility

Accountability

Engineers working at different locations began to meet informally on Friday nights to share information and ideas

Post

Collaboration

Shared ideas

Shared information

Meeting effectiveness

The CEO began to see his role more as an inspirer and coach to others in the organization, and was willing and able to let go of control slowly and steadily.

Post

Organizational roles

Changed relationships

Organizational direction, roles, responsibilities, and compensation were discussed more openly and less hierarchically, and actions were taken by individuals and small groups without needing much input from the CEO.

Post

Openness

Improved communication

Changed relationships

Community action

 


Table 5. Qualitative Statements of Immediate Value, Mastek, Inc.

Qualitative Statement

Time

Frame

Value

 

Mastek

 

 

Mastek's commitment to shared leadership and learning also resulted in changing the location of the regular quarterly meetings of the Board.  Instead of being held in India, they now take place in each of Mastek's four locations: London, India, Singapore, and the United States.

Post

Changed networks

Mastek began using Open Space Technology in its regular business development activities.  Valuable insights on maintaining project quality, employee satisfaction, customer delight, and profitability emerged.

Post

Awareness

Discovery

Profitability

Buried conflicts, fears, and dissatisfactions emerged as well.  People could raise issues they cared about openly - and be heard.  This had a remarkable impact on employees relationships with each other and with Mastek.

Post

Conflict resolution

Openness

Improved communication

Mastek's senior management continues to apply Open Space rituals and principles in a variety of formats.  As a result many conversations have taken place at all levels of the organization, and self-development workshops and organizational strategy sessions have been held.  The result - Mastek is an open, caring, profitable, and dynamic organization.

Post

Improved communication

Openness

Profitability

 

            This report contained six (6) incidents of occurrence of immediate value.  But as can be seen in the previous tables, numerous reports of Post time frame value that one can assume stemmed from the immediate value gained.  What is noteworthy is the value placed on the rituals and principles of OST as described in Section II.  These started to become a “way of life” and shaped the behavior and relationships of Mastek’s employees from top to bottom.  The results of “opening the space” percolated through the organization's daily life. (R. Sundar, 1995).

            For Mastek, Inc., including Majesco, the overarching value gained from using OST is it’s apparent quality for being a catalyst for changing the organization’s culture.  Could OST have sparked the dissipation of the original culture in favor of a new one?  Ilya Pregogine, who coined the term “dissipative structure”, discovered that dissipation didn’t lead to the demise of a system, but may play an important role in creating new structures.  The impact of dissipation, as stated by Pregogine may well describe the underlying value of using OST as experienced by Mastek…“It was part of a process by which the system let go of it’s present form so that it could reemerge in a form better suited to the demands of it’s present environment.”  (Pregogine, Stengers, 1984).

OST was definitely instrumental and valuable in Mastek, Inc.’s transformation.  The people changed the nature of their relationship’s with others and the organization.  Was this change solely due to the value experienced from using OST?  If so, what personal or organizational “nerve” did this value touch, subsequently motivating people to collectively make the transformation happen?  Only Mastek’s employees know the answer to this question, but it does bring into question the value of OST in organizational and personal terms.

The primary data gathered indicated 400 occurrences were reported by type, organizational or personal.  As shown in Figure 4, 314 / 78.5% of value was reported as organizational and 96 / 21.5% of the occurrences personal.  Clearly value reported was numerically in favor of the organizational type.


Figure 4.  Occurrence of Reported OST Value by Type.

 

 

One-fifth (1/5th) of the incidents of value reported are personal.  One might assume form viewing this figure that lines of distinction between organizational and personal value are clear.  This may not be the case as ones work may be personally of value to the individual.  Examples of qualitative statements containing organizational and personal value are provided in Table 6 and assist in clarifying and amplifying this distinction.


Table 6.  Qualitative Statements of Type Value.

Qualitative Statements

Type

Value

Instead of employee surveys and suggestion boxes aimed at greater staff involvement, people in open space participate in real time on real issues.

Organizational

Collaboration

Involvement

 

Discovered the power that can help us transform our weekly meetings, daily conversations and routine decision-making into organizational experiences of high learning, high play and high productivity.

Organizational

Learning

Productivity

Transformation

Awareness/Discovery

Important projects were completed more quickly and more comprehensively than if the besieged IT staff had worked alone.

Organizational

Improved efficiency

Open Space event is transformative, and always yields the organization a high return on investment.

Organizational

Transformation

Return on Investment

Open Space Technology (OST) has the potential for becoming the tool for getting participation, building momentum, and using creativity to ensure that organizations and associations thrive instead of survive.

Organizational

Involvement

Energy

Creativity

Organization history and transitions were honored, plans were made, work was prepared to start.

Organizational

Mutual respect

Open Space provided a blueprint to begin work to increase the diversity of the organization.

Organizational

Diversity

The new board self-organized their meeting and self-managed their process.

Organizational

Self management

Self organization

I think that this format is wonderfully liberating and an empowering experience.

Personal

Freedom

Empowerment

The self-organizing nature of OST personally fits my style of learning.

Personal

Learning

Self organization

Some lives were changed in the process and we also formed some truly wonderful, life long bonds.

Personal

Transformation

Changed relationships

Brought a remarkable shift in our personal/work lives, moving us to conclude on issues lying dormant in our hearts; redefining our work lives and inspiring us to unleash our creativity.

Personal

Transformation

Reflection

Inspiration

Creativity

Genuine open dialogue, very stimulating.

Personal

Collaboration

Improved Communication

I began making connections between my lived work experience and the learning occurring in open space.

Personal

Connection

Learning

Interrelatedness

Returned me to the experience of wholeness, and help us experience ourselves through interconnected networks of concern.

Personal

Networks

Inclusion

Connection

Awareness/Discovery


One gains a clearer picture from the statements of the strong organizational connections participants made in terms of value.  In several instances the personal statements overtly lean toward the organizational (work) perspective.  The use of the words we, us and our hint at inclusiveness of other fellow employees of the organization which subtly connects the personal value to the organizational perspective of value.

There is a group present in today’s diverse workforce who has a somewhat different perspective.  Their view on work is personal and differs dramatically from the impersonal view of work that has been the traditional norm and expectation in organizations.  This group is known as “Generation X” and will inherit and run the organizations of the future.

 

Generation Xers see work more as a lifestyle than a meaning to support themselves.  For Xers, it’s the “in the moment” contribution that counts.  After watching their workaholic parents get laid off in corporate mergers and downsizing, many of them don’t trust employers.  After being raised as latchkey children in families with no stay-at-home parent, they have learned early to rely on themselves. (Adams,1999).

 

 

Life style, “in the moment” contribution and reliance on themselves seems to characterize Generation Xer’s personal connection with work.  One Generation Xer’s comments are additionally telling of this group and their insight about work.

 

I long for my cigarette breaks.  I haven’t worked here long, but I’ve been around long enough to realize that the only place where people are truly happy is outside the back door…puffing away at their smokes.  This has got to be the best part of my day!  I think I am more addicted to the breaks than I am to the cigarette themselves. (Meggan, 1999)

 

Meggan’s comments are certainly event focused and speak to the quality of her workday.  The comment is also strikingly similar to the initial thoughts of Harrison Owen as previously mentioned in Section II.

He realized that the best moments and most useful parts of the conference happened during the coffee breaks.  Was it possible to combine the level of synergy and excitement present in a good coffee break with the substantive activity and results characteristic of a good meeting … a conference that was “all coffee breaks” ? (Owen, 1992.)

 

Whether it is a coffee or cigarette break, it seems to be the event and what transpires during it that is valued.  Are there organizations that are event focused?  Yes, but where does the focus of the event aim…the organization’s customers or their employees?  Traditional enterprises are organized primarily as vertical hierarchies or are based on horizontal processes.  Very few organizations are built to execute events.  Organizations who do focus on events tend to focus the event toward the external customers vice those inside the organization and even fewer do both as a matter of daily routine. (Shafer,1999).

There is a vision of an organization, coined an “Agile Organization” by Richard Shafer, which is designed to combine the event for customers and those in the organization.  The Agile Organization is defined as an organization that has the ability to be indefinitely adaptable (self organizing) without having to change.  Workers in an Agile Organization spontaneously collaborate to create events by taking the initiative to form virtual teams that involve the right people from inside and outside the organization. (Shafer, 1999).

Reported organizational and personal value related to using OST may be indicators of a potentially comfortable “cultural fit” between OST and an “Agile Organization”.  Table 7 highlights the attributes of an Agile Organization’s culture and value reported by type related to using OST.

Table 7.  Agile Organization Cultural Attribute / Reported Type Value Comparison.

Agile Organization

Reported

OST Related Value

Occurrence

Organizational

Occurrence

Personal

Be a learning organization

Learning organization

26

10

Shared leadership

Shared leadership

25

0

High creativity

Creativity

21

3

Evolves spontaneously

(self organization)

Self organization

20

 

3

Automatic assumption

of responsibility

Responsibility

19

5

High awareness

Awareness

14

3

Spontaneous collaboration

Collaboration

12

2

Freedom to initiate

Freedom

12

4

Team building

Team building

8

2

Innovates instantly

Innovation

5

0

Organizes on the fly

(self management)

Self management

5

1

Organizational ownership

Ownership

4

0

Total involvement

Involvement

4

0

Seizes opportunity

Opportunity

1

1

 

            All of the attributes of an Agile Organization’s culture aligns with value realized when using OST.  This complete alignment suggests that OST may well be a real time model for being an Agile Organization.  At the very least OST would be a powerful vehicle for achieving Agile Organization status through experiencing its attributes first hand.  Harrison Owen captures the premise of this in his book Expanding Our Now, (1997).

That Open Space can produce more productive meetings is a matter of global experience.. But stopping there is to miss, I think, the real significance.  There is a possibility of leveraging that experience in order to achieve new, powerful ways of being in organization.  Clearly we have not arrived, but the possibilities are more than intriguing.  Open Space is action research at its best.  In real time, we are given the opportunity to experience ourselves as we may become…and learn to do it all better.


                The value of using OST as a vehicle for “being in organization” or realizing the possibilities of what an organization may become is a stimulating notion.  These possibilities of “being” and “becoming” are concerns for every organization.  They speak to the current and desired organizational states.  So how does an organization gauge it’s “being” and move to “becoming” and what potential role might the value of OST play in this?

One way of approaching this question is to view organizations as cultural types and synthesizing these types through the lens of OST reported value.  To do this one needs to have a basic understanding of the term organizational culture.  One view of organizational culture offered is:  “An organization culture determines the process organizations use to maintain their memories about the culture, knowledge systems, routines and core competencies.  Organizations memories preserve behaviors, norms, values and mental maps over time.  An organization address and solves problems of survival, it builds a culture that becomes the repository for lessons learned”.  (Gephart, Marsick, VanBuren, Spiro, 1996).

In his book, The Reengineering Alternative (1994), William E. Schneider defines culture as (1) what an organization pays attention to, (2) how it makes judgments and decisions.  He says “culture provides consistency for an organization and its people.”  He further describes why culture is important citing, “leaders usually stick with systems that are internally consistent and provide evidence of success.  This consistency over time establishes the organization’s communications patterns, determines whether or not teaming is important or expected and establishes an internal way of life for people.”

            Schneider’s model of four distinct organizational core cultures may provide a slightly different way of viewing this, which may be helpful in clarifying organizational culture and OST value correlation.  He describes four organizational core cultures: Control, Collaboration, Competence and Cultivation.  They are aligned over two constructs: content and process.  Content considers that which is possible or actual as it relate to what the organization focuses on.  Process deals with how processes relate to people, personal or impersonal.  Overlaying the four core cultures on the construct forms the basic character and nature of the four organizational cultures.  Each culture also has a set of strengths that are valued in that culture.  Figure 5 and Table 8 provide the construct view and a brief abridged description of each culture.


Figure 5.  Schneider’s Four Organizational Core Culture Model.

 

Table 8.  Four Organizational Core Culture Briefs.

 

Collaboration:

Cultivation

Socialization base or model is the Family or Team Sports.  It is naturally effective at building, developing and utilizing teams.  Role of employee is to collaborate, contribute, use others as resources, honor diversity and be a generalist.  Communications is open, free and direct.  Decision-making is participative, collegial, democratic, experimental and consensus oriented.  Leadership is seen as a team builder coach, participative integrator and trust builder.  Highly open to change and the team calls for change.

Socialization base or model is religious institutions.  Places a high value on training and education.  Role of employees is to be creative, express yourself, develop, grow, be versatile and believe in your organizations beliefs.  Offers considerable opportunities for growth, development and the realization of potential.  Decision-making is purposive, evolutionary, very subjective committed.  Leadership is seen as a catalyst, cultivator, commitment builder.  Change is embraced and is automatic.

Control

Competence

Socialization base or model is Military Organizations.  A systematic that is orderly and predictable. Communication is hierarchical.  Expectations , roles, and jobs are clear.  Decision-making is conservative, thorough and highly realistic.  Leadership is authoritative, cautious , firm and commanding.  Change is mandated and resistance to change is a norm.  People are very proficient at their functions.

Socialization base or model is the University.  Offers considerable technical expertise. Training and education are prevalent and highly prized.  Role of the employee is to be the best, an expert, be creative serve the theoretical and conceptual pursuits of the organization.  Decision-making is analytical, detached, scientific and efficient.  Leadership one of standard setter, conceptual visionary, taskmaster, challenger of others and assertive.  It is open to change.  Achievement goals drive change.

            The condensed descriptions of the four organizational core culture attributes outlined in Table 7 have strikingly familiar similarities with OST related value.  A comparison between Type value and the four core organizational cultures attributes found in Schneider’s book The Reengineering Alternative (1994) was conducted.  These results are displayed in Table 9.

 

Table 9.  Similarities:  OST Related Type Value / Four Organizational Core Cultures.

 

OST Reported Value

Control

Collaboration

Competence

Cultivation

Relationships     

 

X

 

X

Openness        

 

X

 

X

Inter Dependencies

 

X

 

X

Inter Relatedness

 

X

 

X

Non Hierarchical Org

 

X

 

X

Learning      

 

X

X

X

Self Organizing

 

X

 

X

Awareness / Discovery

 

X

X

 

Collaboration        

 

X

 

X

Improve Communication

 

X

 

X

Team Build

 

X

 

 

Improve Efficiency

X

 

X

 

Inclusion      

 

X

 

X

Community Action

 

X

 

X

Self Management

 

 

 

X

Culture Change

 

X

 

X

Innovation     

 

 

X

 

Remove Barriers

 

X

 

X

Human Growth

 

 

 

X

Commitment    

X

X

 

X

Trust         

 

X

 

X

Involvement     

 

X

 

X

Achievement    

X

 

X

 

Creativity   

 

X

X

X

Spirit        

 

 

 

X

Freedom       

 

X

 

X

Empowerment      

 

X

 

X

Passion        

 

 

 

X

Diversity        

 

X

 

 

Inspiration    

 

 

 

X

Possibility     

 

 

X

X

Shared Leadership

 

X

 

X

Shared Communication

 

X

 

X

Shared Ideas/Knowledge

 

X

 

X

Total

3

25

7

28

The results of the comparison show numerically that the Cultivation and Collaboration cultures are by far more in alignment.  The Competence and Control cultures seem to have the least in common.  This suggest that people in a Control or Competence culture might realize very little or no organizational value when using OST.  This may not be the case at all.

The primary data indicates one of the top forms of value was the self-organization properties of OST as it relates to creating a climate for work to be done in Open Space.  Assuming a Control culture used OST, its self organizing properties would allow them the freedom to complete the task at hand in the manner of their choosing.  If the Control culture’s attributes are truly valued by the participants they would self organize around these attributes.  Value realized would be in alignment with the core culture.  The possibility does exist that the attributes embodied in the Control culture may not be completely valued by the participants of the event.  One way or the other, this would be clearly visible and a signal to an observer and indicating the status and strength of the culture.  In essence this is a real time snapshot of an organizational culture in action.  What the organization does with this information is left in their hands.

On the other hand, participants from a Cultivation culture (most in alignment with OST value) would in fact do the same in terms of self-organization.  The value realized would be more in alignment with the organizations culture.  An observer of this group may have a more difficult time noting differences, as they would probably be subtler.  Value realized may be perceived as more personal as the Cultivation is personal in construct.  The lines of distinction between personal and organizational value may be blurred.  The wholeness of the value realized may be deeper and more meaningful than if viewed distinctly as organizational or personal value.

Regardless one would be noting or analyzing the degree of performance behavior difference or “Gap” in the organizations core culture.  Figure 6 displays this graphically.

 

Figure 6  Gap Analysis.

The awareness of a performance gap may unfreeze functions within an organization that are most needed for change.  When this Occurs, conditions are present for altering the structure and function of the organization.(Harvey, Brown,1996)  Value realized in Open Space could used a set of value markers to capitalize on for moving change forward to the desired state if needed.  Surveying OST participants for value realized may provide the value markers useful in measuring ones progress along the path in closing the gap.

Schneider describes using a form of “Gap Analysis” for measuring and developing ones organizational effectiveness.  He provides a systematic framework of five steps for implementing change through organizational culture awareness.

1.     Determine your core culture.

2.     Capture your cultures strengths.

3.     Determine your core cultures level of integration.

4.     Determine your core cultures degree of wholeness.

5.     Determine your core cultures degree of balance.

            OST would possibly be of most value in performing step #2 capturing your cultures strengths.  As participants in Open Space self organize into their natural cultural state, not imposed, observations could be made providing a real time status of the organizations culture in action.  This knowledge would be powerful information in assessing the gap and helping determine why and how to move organizationally.

            Organizations are delicately balanced systems composed of subsystems intricately interrelated and interdependent. (Wheatly, 1994).  As was previously mentioned, over 80% of the OST related value by type was organizational.  Since organizations are considered systems it is a natural step in the analysis to view value by Type and it’s relationship in the System arena of OST related value.  Figure 7 begins this analysis.


Figure 7. Occurrence of Reported OST Related Value. Type Vs System.

            As shown in Figure 7, value associated with the Community subsystem is predominating.  Across System, Community related value is a standout in particular in the organizational category.  Even Community’s Personal relationship rivals or exceeds value that is organizational in the Vision, Leadership and Management subsystems.  This strong showing hints at a connection or sense of inclusion that is experienced and valued as a result of using OST.  Looking at the origins of the word community sheds light on this connection.

The word “community has roots, going back to the Indo-European base mei, meaning “change” or “exchange.”  This joined with another root, kom, meaning “with”, to produce and Indo-European word kommein, meaning shared by all.

 

We think the idea of “change or exchange, shared by all,” is pretty close to the sense of community in organizations today.  Community building is a core strategy for sharing among its members the burdens and benefits of change and exchange (Senge,1994)

 

The idea of “change or exchange and shared by all” is an aspect of value reported from using OST.  Not only are these represented in the Community subsystem, but they are also present in the Leadership, Management and Vision subsystems as well.  A break down of this representation is outlined in Table 10, which includes a sampling of associated qualitative statements.

Table 10.  Occurrence of Value and Qualitative Statements.  OST Climate Allowed (Shared Value by Subsystem).

 

OST creates a climate that allows:

Community

Vision

Leadership

Management

Shared leadership

3

3

18

1

Shared communication

9

1

1

3

Shared ideas

5

5

0

0

Shared knowledge

2

3

1

1

Shared quality

3

3

0

0

Shared risk

1

0

2

0

Total

23

15

22

5

Qualitative Statements

Subsystem

Builds energy, commitment and shared leadership.

Leadership

Community

Three days -Tangible results:  issue resolution, emerging leadership and action planning.

Leadership

Management

Shared leadership emerged (out of passion + responsibility).

Leadership

The corporate culture changed, with everyone recognizing that leadership was in all, that all had a right to work at vision, that all had a role in community, that all had responsibility for good management.

Leadership

Vision

Management

Community

The voluntary nature of participation meant a lateral granting of leadership and authority and no need for followership.

Leadership

OST allowed me to really talk with many different people I have never met before in a "real" honest way.

Community

Allowed participants to gather around  topics that were most compelling to them and to utilize all the wisdom in the group in developing new possibilities.

Community

Vision

As the levels of access to information increased, new relationships were formed that created new, diverse networks for communications and cooperation.

Community

Cross fertilization of ideas.  Helps people with like ideas/issues to find each other easily.

Community

Provided valuable insights on maintaining project quality.

Management

Being energizing, free and open - taking risks, respecting others, appreciating diversity as an asset.

Community

Shared information across previous boundaries and experienced connectedness as one whole community - Allowed for expressing optimism about the future.

Community

Vision

Some senior and divisional executives were willing to take the risk to set a theme and parameters and then "let-go" for self-organization.

Management

Leadership

Helped to legitimize our management approach and build connections between internal leadership and our vision.

Management

Leadership

Highlighted in the data across System is an almost even representation of “shared value” between Community and Leadership subsystems.  This is at odds with Figure 7’s data, which indicated the Community subsystem being the stronger of the two.  When viewed through the lens of the origins of the word “Community”, the Leadership subsystem becomes a stronger presence but only in terms of the “shared leadership category of value.

            Overall the system’s data indicates there is ample representation in all subsystems related to the origin of the word “community”.  Further, the prominent representation of the Community subsystem across Organizational and Personnel type value indicates that using OST may be of value in matters related to “organizations as communities.”

            The notion of organizations as communities is becoming a popular business practice and requires redefining one’s “mental model” concerning the meaning of organizations.  Historically the word organization brings to mind authority, power and bureaucracy where order rules and the chain of command is reinforced by “superiors” directing “subordinates.” (Senge, 1994).  The organizational community “mental model” takes on a different meaning as shown by Bryan Smith co-author of The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook , (1994).

It means using approaches of community development in organizations.  It also means seeing organizations as centers of meaning and larger purpose to which people commit themselves as free citizens in a democratic society.  It involves developing a new awareness to such questions as how and why people are hired and fired, who makes what decisions, and how to assure people’s contribution to success is fairly rewarded.  It invokes thought about an organization’s conscience - the role organizations play in one’s nation and in the world if they are to attract and retain the people with the most to offer. (Senge, 1994)


 

            Third Age, a community oriented E-commerce company embodies much of the principles previously stated regarding organizations as communities.  Third Age ‘s Internet website is marketed towards the needs of Fifty plus (50 +) year old consumers.  Mary Furlong, founder and CEO approaches community in her organization with the following thoughts.  (Ransdell, 1998).

"It's not like we're in an industry where there's an accepted business model. We're in an industry where everyone has to listen to and learn from each other every day. You can't build community in cyberspace if you don't build community in your workplace."

 

"Real communities address real needs," Furlong says. "The biggest social ill in this country is alienation. There are more 50-year-olds living alone today than at any other time in our history. How are these people going to meet each other? How are they going to deal with life issues: 'I just found out that my father has cancer'? That's why romance, intimacy, and loneliness are such important issues for our members. This community gives them real friends."

 

To serve this community, Third Age staffers must form a communal bond of their own. "We're building community inside the company every day," Furlong says. "We want to make this a place where people produce, create, and grow."

 

Third Age has been successful in becoming and being a community-oriented organization including internal organizational community alignment.  Their method may not be the model that fits all, but it worked for their unique culture.  There are some core processes fundamental to creating and maintaining organizations as communities.  These dubbed the “C” words by Juanita Brown and David Issacs of Interactive Learning Systems Inc. may be helpful in this endeavor.  They involve processes, similar to business processes, for enhancing Capability, Commitment, Contribution, Continuity, Collaboration, and Conscience. (Senge, 1994).  The elements and attributes of each are provided in conjunction with reported OST Systems value is provided in Table 11.


Table 11.  Organizations as Communities “C” Word Attributes.  Systems Value Association.

 

 

Community

Vision

Leadership

Management

Capability

 

 

 

 

Learning

23

8

4

0

Shared communication

9

1

1

3

Collaboration

8

3

3

0

Integration

4

2

1

1

Renewal

3

0

0

0

Shared knowledge

2

3

1

1

Innovation

2

3

0

0

Inspiration

0

1

1

1

Commitment

 

 

 

 

Commitment

9

6

2

0

Collaboration

8

3

3

0

Integration

4

2

1

1

Inclusion

4

2

0

1

Problem solving

4

1

1

1

Mutual respect

2

0

0

0

Contribution

 

 

 

 

Collaboration

8

3

3

0

Shared ideas

5

5

0

0

Diversity honored

4

2

0

0

Shared knowledge

2

3

1

0

Provide opportunities

0

2

0

0

Continuity

 

 

 

 

Learning

23

8

4

1

Creativity

14

6

2

0

Reflection

4

2

2

0

Shared leadership

3

3

18

1

Shared knowledge

2

3

1

1

Interdependency

2

2

1

1

Self management

2

2

1

1

Collaboration

 

 

 

 

Learning

23

8

4

1

Shared communication

9

1

1

3

Shared ideas

5

5

0

0

Community action

4

1

1

0

Team building

4

3

2

0

Interdependency

2

2

1

1

Shared knowledge

2

3

1

1

Trust

1

0

5

0

Conscience

 

 

 

 

Responsibility

15

4

3

2

Mutual respect

2

0

0

0

Interrelatedness

2

0

2

0

Trust

1

0

5

0

Involvement

0

0

1

2

Surveying the data in Table 11 provides an indication of OST value being in strong alignment with the attributes and qualities of Organizations as Communities “C” words.  The Community subsystem shows the greatest association.  All “C” word attributes are represented in at least one subsystem category.  With this in mind it is probable that value realized from using OST would support and be of assistance when developing and maintaining an Organization as a Community from a “C “ words perspective.

The full representation of value also brings into question whether OST is a capable in it’s own right as a model for an Organization as a Community.  This presumes that OST itself plants the seeds for Community to come into “being” and grow from there.  Is the value realized from using OST the starting point for Community and it’s continued growth?

A possible answer to this question is provided from a discussion group concerning Open Space Dynamics and the Creation of Community occurring during an Open Space on Open Space Event.  This piece offers a thorough discussion and analysis of the question, including the value of using OST.

TOPIC #16:  Open Space Dynamics and the Creation of Community

 

CONVENER(S): Ric Giardina

 

PARTICIPANTS:  Maureen McCarthy, Bob Nelson, Albert Schinazi, Greg Sedbrook, Sushma Sharma, Dick Whitehouse, Gil Herman, David Rupley, Harrison Owen, Peg Holman, Ed Jacobson, David Koehler, Judy Gast, Hart Frech, Gretchen Neve.

 

SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND, ACTIONS:

 

All of us have experienced the transformation of a group of people (sometimes strangers) into a community of value as a natural result of the OST process. What is it about the OST process that contributes so consistently to this transformation?  Several initial ideas were suggested for this phenomenon, including the clarity of intention of both the facilitator and the participants, that OST provides an environment in which personal relationships can deepen from the more common "acquaintanceship" model to one of true friendship, etc.

 

It was suggested that OST doesn’t really add anything, but that it is simply a matter of acknowledging what is already there.  There was a suggestion that posing the question about what is it that OST does to create community actually misses the point.  There is no "creation" or "adding to," but an uncovering what is in reality in existence.  This approach says that in OST we START with the notion that we are all already in community, that the divisions we experience in normal life are all self-imposed, and that OST is a structure in which those self-imposed divisions are removed.

 

The behavioral characteristic principles of OST that contribute to this structure are:

 

ONE – High Learning, in which radically diverse opinions and ideas are expressed. Moreover, it is an environment in which diverse opinions are honored and respected.

 

TWO – High Play, in which the participants take what shows up in the environment and construct a good story to connect the facts in a delighted, playful manner.

 

THREE – Appropriate Structure and Control, by which we acknowledge that OST is NOT structure less, but that it is self-generating. This means that it is totally appropriate to the group that has spawned it, and, if it becomes something that is not appropriate to the group, the group will change it.

 

FOUR – Genuine Community is the natural and direct product of the previous three conditions.

 

OST is not about doing an event, but about participating in the evolution of human consciousness. That is not to say that reflection after the event cannot be enormously powerful.

 

There was then significant discussion of other "community" organizations with comparisons between those viewed as "healthy" (read: "good" ) versus those viewed as "unhealthy" (read: "bad).  In the end we seemed to agree that all communities were efficient organizations created to deal with their respective environments.  For example, street gangs are very effective communities for dealing with the issues that the members are passionate about and totalitarian governmental systems are very efficient communities to deal with the issues facing the proponents of that system.

 

Human beings are self-organizing, and the type of self-organization will depend in a large degree on the environmental forces surrounding the community.

 

Lastly, it was suggested that OST works so efficiently to create community at such a deep level because OST’s four characteristic principles and one law give people permission to do what they were going to do anyway. Giving them permission to do it, however, removes the guilt and transforms the space. (Giardina, date unknown)

 

The analysis of this piece is contained in the body of its text and needs no further amplification.  It does offer the perfect place to bring this analysis of results to conclusion.  However it does not bring this “story” to an end, but serves to stimulate ones imagination and open up a pathway for a new way of thinking about the value of using Open Space Technology and the impact it may have on developing and sustaining “Organizations as Communities.”

Proof of Hypothesis

I began this research project seeking to determine the value associated with using Open Space Technology.  With respect to this there was no proof to be determined.  The only action necessary was to determine the value and possible linkages and associations with contemporary theory.  The data gathered and synthesized reflects reported value realized from using OST and makes meaningful connections with appropriate contemporary theory and thought.


SECTION V

Summary and Conclusions

Summary

            As discussed in Section IV, value associated with using OST comes in many forms.  The singular value that rises above all others is OST’s ability to uncover what is already in existence but unseen, cloaked by individuals and organizational constructs for division.  OST’s Four Principles sand One Law are the keys to peeling away these barriers and allow value to emerge and be fully realized by participants in its natural and authentic state.  This prime value supports and provides the opportunity for secondary, but no less important forms of value to surface that are personally and organizationally interrelated.

OST provides conditions that empower individuals to creatively develop pathways for value diffusion within the organization.  Value realized in Open Space sparks a transformation of relationships and heightens awareness of self and the organization.  It enables the emergence of a situationally appropriate environment for unleashing creativity and innovation for determining new ways of “being in organization”.

OST presents an opportunity for real time action research providing immediate and authentic data on the current state of an organizational cultural strengths and weaknesses.  Additionally it supports and allows deep reflection on critical organizational issues by uncovering and highlighting interdependencies and interrelatedness of these issues.

Finally, OST delivers an appropriate atmosphere for authentic community to emerge or remerge.  When coupled in organizational settings it promotes an organizational culture of high learning, spontaneous collaboration, creativity and mutual respect that is structured around interdependent constructs of passion and responsibility.

Conclusions

            Until more research is conducted surrounding the value associated with using OST it will be difficult to determine the full relationships with existing contemporary theory and thought.  OST is in it’s infancy as a whole systems intervention and is interfacing with rapidly changing organizations striving to maintain their balance and competitive advantage in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world environment.  The speed at which organizational transformation occurs now and will be required in the future may cause interventions other than OST to diminish in value and fall by the wayside.  They may not possess the qualities necessary to adapt to change necessitated by today’s rapidly changing environment.  OST may well be the perfect intervention, adapting and flexing effortlessly with organizational change without losing it’s value.  It is a potentially powerful tool for assisting organizations in moving beyond forced and controlled change efforts.

Recommendations

In the mid-late 1980’s a significant shift in technology and world influence necessitated shifting the way organizations must learn in order to remain on the leading edge of their chosen industries.  OST arrived on the organizational landscape about the same time.  This dual coincidence places both OST and organizations at the beginning of the “New” future of business in 21st century.  With this in mind the following recommendations are suggested.

            Future research on OST should be an evolutionary process as OST does not have an endpoint.  The Open Space event may formally come to a close but its impact is felt in organizations and people long after the initial event.  Careful consideration should be given on the design process for future research to account for measurement and assessment of this impact.  Research conducted should evolve as an interrelated and interdependent organizational “way of life” as both OST and the organization co-evolve and mature.

Qualitative research efforts should not be duplicated in same manner this research process was shaped.  If possible, future research of this nature or different concerning OST should be conducted and shaped in Open Space.  As an example an Open Space on Open Space is held annually as a form of action research on OST.  It is recommended that organizations using OST also follow this model and explore OST as the organization evolves from it’s use.  The real time action research opportunity OST provides for gathering qualitative data as it occurs would far surpass the quality and authenticity of recounted stories and articles such as the ones used in this study.  Qualitative research conducted in a time frame other than “in the moment” may not possess the required depth of learning and organizational knowledge necessary to make a complete and whole assessment of data.  OST would provide researchers the perfect “learning laboratory” for studying OST in it’s “purest” state of being.  At the same time this would allow appropriate conditions for reflection time to self organize and evolve, hence stetting conditions for a deeper understanding of the value associated with OST and it’s impact on organizations and people.

Additionally future qualitative and quantitative research efforts should not be divorced.  If possible, future efforts should have a balanced aspect of both.  This does not mean an equal amount by design, but the data should be truly reflective of the nature of OST.  If the data gathered “becomes” more qualitative as the research self organizes (probable in Open Space) then it would be considered in balance.  Both are equally important in understanding the value associated with using OST.

Finally, any aspects of organizations would be prime territory for future research.  The following are suggested areas for beginning ongoing and evolutionary research relating to OST:

        Communication Dynamics.

        Organizational Conscience.

        Organizations as Living Systems.

        Diffusion and Governance.

        Group Dynamics.

        Evolution of Leadership.

        Conflict Resolution.

        Organizations as Communities.

        Learning Communities.

        Visioning.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

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APPENDICES

A.        Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by Time Frame

B.         Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by Type

C.        Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by System

D.        Extracted Value Related Qualitative Statements


Appendix A

Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by Time Frame

 

 

Time Frame

Time Frame

Time Frame

Results        

Total

Immediate

Post

Potential

Affects

 

 

 

 

Organizational Roles     

2

1

1

0

TOTAL

2

1

1

0

Changes

 

 

 

 

 Networks      

5

3

2

0

 Relationships     

6

4

2

0

TOTAL

11

7

4

0

Highlights    

 

 

 

 

Openness        

7

5

1

1

Inter Dependencies      

5

3

1

1

Inter Relatedness     

4

2

2

0

Flexibility     

3

2

0

1

Resilience     

2

0

0

2

TOTAL

21

12

4

5

Models

 

 

 

 

Learning Organization       

5

0

2

2

Non Hierarchical Organization

4

0

4

0

TOTAL

9

0

6

2

Provides      

 

 

 

 

Return On Investment            

3

1

1

1

Time Allotted      

3

3

0

0

Simplicity     

2

0

2

0

Cost Low       

2

2

0

0

TOTAL

10

6

3

1


Appendix A (Continued)

 

 

 

Time Frame

Time Frame

Time Frame

Creates Climate

Total

Immediate

Post

Potential

Allows         

 

 

 

 

Learning      

36

20

9

7

Self Organization      

23

13

7

3

Improve Productivity    

21

9

9

4

Awareness / Discovery    

17

10

6

1

Collaboration        

14

9

4

1

Improve Communication

11

6

3

2

Team Build    

10

4

3

3

Transform    

10

3

6

1

Challenges     

9

5

3

1

Conflict Resolution         

9

5

2

2

Integration     

8

2

5

2

Problem Solving     

8

4

3

1

Reflection     

8

5

3

0

Connection     

7

5

1

1

Improve Efficiency     

7

4

3

0

Inclusion      

7

4

2

1

Community Action       

6

2

2

2

Improve Morale    

6

1

4

1

Self Management      

6

6

0

0

Culture Change      

5

1

4

0

Innovation     

5

4

0

1

Remove Barriers     

5

3

1

1

Break Through     

4

2

2

0

Human Growth    

4

1

2

1

Renewal       

3

3

0

0

Uncovers       

3

2

0

0

Accountability    

2

2

0

0

Feedback Loop     

2

2

0

0

Mutual Respect     

2

2

0

0

Opportunity    

2

1

1

0

Continuous Improvement 

2

2

0

0

Safety         

2

2

0

0

TOTAL

264

144

85

36


Appendix A (Continued)

 

 

 

Time Frame

Time Frame

Time Frame

Creates Climate

Total

Immediate

Post

Potential

Increases

 

 

 

 

Responsibility    

24

18

4

2

Commitment    

17

12

1

4

Trust         

6

3

2

1

Ownership      

4

2

0

2

Involvement     

3

2

1

1

Profitability     

3

0

3

0

Achievement    

2

0

0

2

Meeting Effectiveness  

2

2

0

0

TOTAL

61

39

11

12

Nurtures

 

 

 

 

Creativity   

24

17

4

3

Energy        

21

15

5

1

Spirit        

18

10

4

4

Freedom       

16

14

2

0

Empowerment      

13

9

2

2

Passion        

8

8

0

0

Diversity        

6

5

0

1

Inspiration    

3

3

0

0

Possibility     

2

0

2

0

TOTAL

111

81

19

11

Shared

 

 

 

 

Leadership

25

15

8

2

Communication

14

11

3

0

Ideas

10

8

2

0

Knowledge

7

6

0

1

Quality

6

0

2

4

Risk

3

2

1

0

TOTAL

65

42

16

7

 


Appendix B

Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by Type

 

 

Type

Type

Results        

Total

Organizational

Personal

Affects

 

 

 

Organizational Roles     

2

2

0

Total

2

2

0

Changes

 

 

 

 Networks      

5

5

0

 Relationships     

6

4

2

Total

11

9

2

Highlights    

 

 

 

Openness        

7

6

1

Inter Dependencies      

5

5

0

Inter Relatedness     

4

2

2

Flexibility     

3

3

0

Resilience     

2

2

0

Total

21

18

3

Models

 

 

 

Learning Organization       

5

4

0

Non Hierarchical Organization

4

4

0

Total

9

8

0

Provides      

 

 

 

Return On Investment             

3

3

0

Time Allotted     

3

3

0

Simplicity     

2

0

2

Cost Low       

2

2

0

Total

10

8

2


Appendix B (Continued)

 

 

 

Type

Type

Creates Climate

Total

Organizational

Personal

Allows         

 

 

 

Learning      

36

26

10

Self Organization       

23

20

3

Improve Productivity    

21

19

2

Awareness / Discovery    

17

14

3

Collaboration        

14

12

2

Improve Communication

11

8

1

Team Build    

10

8

2

Transform    

10

9

0

Challenges     

9

8

1

Conflict Resolution        

9

7

2

Integration     

8

6

2

Problem Solving     

8

5

3

Reflection     

8

5

3

Connection     

7

5

2

Improve Efficiency     

7

7

0

Inclusion      

7

6

1

Community Action       

6

4

2

Improve Morale    

6

6

0

Self Management      

6

5

1

Culture Change      

5

4

1

Innovation     

5

5

0

Remove Barriers     

5

5

0

Break Through     

4

4

0

Human Growth    

4

3

1

Renewal       

3

1

2

Uncovers       

3

2

0

Accountability    

2

2

0

Feedback Loop     

2

2

0

Mutual Respect     

2

0

2

Opportunity    

2

1

1

Continuos Improvement 

2

2

0

Safety         

2

2

0

Total

264

213

47


Appendix B (Continued)

 

 

 

Type

Type

Creates Climate

Total

Organizational

Personal

Increases

 

 

 

Responsibility    

24

19

5

Commitment    

17

11

6

Trust         

6

6

0

Ownership      

4

4

0

Involvement     

3

4

0

Profitability     

3

2

1

Achievement    

2

1

1

Meeting Effectiveness  

2

2

0

Total

61

49

13

Nurtures

 

 

 

Creativity   

24

21

3

Energy        

21

12

9

Spirit        

18

14

4

Freedom       

16

12

4

Empowerment      

13

4

9

Passion        

8

4

4

Diversity         

6

5

1

Inspiration    

3

2

1

Possibility     

2

2

0

Total

111

76

35

Shared

 

 

 

Leadership

25

25

0

Communication

14

12

2

Ideas

10

6

4

Knowledge

7

6

1

Quality

6

6

0

Risk

3

3

0

Total

65

58

7

 


Appendix C

Incidents of Occurrence of OST Related Value by System

 

 

System

System

System

System

Results        

Total

Community

Vision

Leadership

Management

Affects

 

 

 

 

 

Organizational Roles     

2

0

0

0

2

Total

2

0

0

0

2

Changes

 

 

 

 

 

 Networks      

5

4

0

1

0

 Relationships     

6

4

0

2

0

Total

11

8

0

3

0

Highlights    

 

 

 

 

 

Openness        

7

5

1

1

0

Inter Dependencies      

5

2

2

1

0

Inter Relatedness     

4

2

0

2

0

Flexibility     

3

1

2

0

0

Resilience     

2

0

2

0

0

Total

21

10

7

4

0

Models

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Organization       

5

1

2

1

0

Non Hierarchical Organization

4

0

0

0

4

Total

9

1

2

1

4

Provides      

 

 

 

 

 

Return On Investment             

3

0

0

3

0

Time Allotted     

3

1

0

1

1

Simplicity     

2

2

0

0

0

Cost Low       

2

0

0

0

2

Total

10

3

0

4

3


Appendix C (Continued)

 

 

 

System

System

System

System

Creates Climate

Total

Community

Vision

Leadership

Management

Allows         

 

 

 

 

 

Learning      

36

23

8

4

1

Self Organizing      

23

12

7

2

2

Improve Productivity