Issue: The short (3 hour) OS meeting

Convenor: AlexanderKjerulf


Summary of the meeting: This is all about short OS meetings. The discussions have been captured in a kinda to-do format, with reasons for doing short OS's as well as do's and dont's.

Generally we found that the short OS's create much the same buzz and creativity as the longer ones. And you get amazing amounts of work done.

Reasons for doing short OS's include:

Short OS's work best when:

Short OS's do not work well for:

Things to do when facilitating short OS's: A sample format could look like this: Welcome (5 min) OS intro (10 min) Agenda planning (15 min) 2 1-hour sessions voting and closing (25 min)

Align expectations. Ask the customer what they want to achieve. They will typically want way too much. Inform them that all of this will take two days, then settle on realistic expectations for a 3-hour session.

Sessions can be from 30 minutes to one hour. You can have sessions of different lengths, ie. 2 30 minute sessions and 1 1-hour session.

Shortest possible OS meeting os probably around 2,5 to 3 hours.

During the closing mention something like "Just imagine what we could've done in three days".

If you combine OS with other formats, end with OS.

The short OS has been tried succesfully with up to 120 participants.

In the short OS, the invitation becomes even more important. There is less time, so you need to be very clear on the topic.

The crucial question to ask when considering a short OS meeting is: Is it better then no OS meeting at all?

You might consider an additional hout after the OS meeting to convene working groups.

A format that uses partly pre-defined topics has also been succesfully tried. In this case participants met around flipover charts. Five were pre-filled with topics and 2-3 were blank, and could be filled out by participants.

Planning doesn't take long in short OS's because there's fewer topics.

Always do more than one session. Ie. instead of one one-hour session (if you're really pressed for time, take two half-hour sessions.

Things NOT to do: Don't rush. Act like you have all the time in the world, eg. in the intro.

Don't tell people to change sessions when it's time. They'll move on when they're ready.

Follow up:

Online Comments:

MY FAVORITE 3 HOUR OST - While facilitating another type of "program" for the intact staff of a non-profit agency, the Executive Director (who was not familiar with OST but with whom we have deep rapport) my partners and I spontaneously decided to open space after the first couple of hours indicated that would best serve the very different agendas and needs of the participants. The entire group of 25 gave input to the convening question, my partners quickly made posters of the principles and law, posting them on the sticky wall just in time as I was orienting the participants to OST. Within half an hour, we had shifted from a much more formal "staff development" session to a three hour OST with 3 forty minute breakouts meeting. Everyone caught on quickly and those participants who wanted some of the training session material (an overview of the Enneagram for example)posted them as topics.

In the closing circle, comments like, "I finally feel that my perspectives have been understood" and "I can't believe how much I shared with my supervisor" and "It is so exciting to see the passion and commitment of our staff come alive" underscored the value of full participation in a safe space.

Christine Whitney Sanchez (Thanks for creating such an easy way for me to participate! Blessings to you all.)

I recently facilatated a 2 hour OS meeting that worked beautifully even though only 4 of us were present.

I had in mind all along to participate because this is a group organizing the ChicagoSocialForum for Jan 31/Feb? 1 and I'm quite interested in this topic. I had suggested OS as a format for organizing meetings because it appeared to me that the event itself was fairly close to OS. Of course I had no desire to push so I made the proposal at the July meeting and stepped back to see what would happen. This experimental meeting in August was the result and much of it turned out to be question and answers about what might happen if the entire planning process was in OS. Again, I did not bring this up, but was very engaged in the conversation, answering questions as I saw them.

Anyway, the outcome of the meeting was to decide that we'd be meeting twice/month from now until the event in order to recruit more inviters for the actual forum and plan and organize all the logistics, in a totally open and free way, without anyone being able to hijack the process. It's as if we're creating an OS organization from scratch. We'll see how it goes!


Those are excellent stories, I especially liked the story of the impromptu OS meeting just happening out of a "normal" staff meeting. In my opinion these stories confirm that space can be opened and that elusive spirit quality can appear in just a few of hours. Certainly, longer meetings have an even better chance of working, but the short OS is a valuable addition to the toolbox.


Here are my notes for a monthly short OST we are doing:

-- ChrisCorrigan

The fist couple of years I did not open space unless a minimum time was available, and I still try to identify the hidden time resources which often can be found if you start looking for them. An exeption like discussed above, is groups with open space experience. Otherwise I feel a short session can give an impression, a taste of it. The largest group I have done a short session with, was 150 CEO's, chairmen of Boards and major shareholders of companies owned by a Danish Investment Group. Here some time was hidden because the plan was to have a Professor from the London Business School summaise the results of the Open Space............ Here were 45 extra minutes !!!! For the closing session we had half an hour. Then an ambassador would come to speak and there would be dinner. I told the group when we started the closing circle, that I was aware that each and everyone of them was capable of speaking well, and at lenght, but that if they did so, there would be no speech, no dinner and maybe even no sleep..... And they surprised me: 148 out of the 150 spoke, and yet the closing circle was finished in less then 20 minutes... -- GerardMuller

More short OS stories at GlobalChicago:OneHourOpenSpace and GlobalChicago:OpeningShortSpaces. See GlobalChicago:OpenSpaceTech practice notebook for more alternatives and hybrids.