Skip to main content

UnBoxing: Open Space Agility workshop

I'm taking Mezick's introduction course to OpenSpace Agility - thought I'd write a bit about what I'm learning.

Unboxing the workshop - Your move Schrodinger.


Day One:
Beginning concepts - leaders have a duty to set direction and name constraints; yet stay away from telling how to achieve the goals.  Executives commits to holding first OpenSpace and Acting upon the proceedings.  And holding a second OpenSpace after a time box (100 days).

A constraining forces in OSA will be the Agile Manifesto, actions and experiments should be judged by this definition and if seen to support it, be considered good.

Another foundational concept of OSA - Self Management - defined as the behavior of a group to know and practice their decision making process (whatever that may be).  A good test is to ask 5 people how their group makes decisions - then count the number of answers - one general description of their decision making apparatus points strongly toward a self-managing team.

Q:  Many agilist are searching for a scaling framework.  If the foundations of agile mindset shift is a willingness to engage in dialogue about possibilities; how does one scale willingness?  Dan pointed to UX designer Micah Zimring candidly discusses his experience of the OpenSpace Agility process, including his initial skepticism going in. (Note: When you hear the the word ‘churn’ used in this interview, it means ‘lack of decision-making’ or ‘indecision’).

Paraphrasing Dan:  'Most Impediments come from:  People making decisions they do not have authority to make e.g. boundary issues with authority & decisions.'

Harold highly recommended book:  Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (better than Crucial Conversations - you say potato, I say pootato, let's check it out.)


Day Two:
There was a interesting conversation happening on the pre-meeting video conference... people engaged and communicating on a true personal level (acting with trust).  This is quite unusual for so many tech video conferences, regardless of team size, team maturity level, group dynamics.  I felt as if I'd entered an old familiar bar where everyone knew my name - Norm!

We might return to this concept... later...

So my notes say we might have started with a bit of a lesson on the distinction between some points on the influence spectrum.  After all many Agile "coaches" attempt to influence other people, many times they have great impact for the good (well at least that's how I get to sleep at night).  I may have ruined this one guy's whole sleep over... he joined our little band of developers in Seattle and got along well, we learned to develop working tested software, and to the direction of a great PO.  She had the vision to lead us on a journey - there was some unknown territory along the way - and we discovered the reasons for some weird missions.  Later this guy wrote on a discussion thread about the woes of the good old days - that he'd rather not work on Agile projects any more, because he knows from experience what it can be, what it should be, ... but the project are not that.  It's lipstick on a pig.  He'd rather do waterfall projects.  Because coding to the spec is easy, no work at all really.  However playing the in-between game is hell.

Oh - sorry - that crap just jumped out of my fingers... we were talking about influence - all the way down the slippery slope to manipulation and into coercion.  Now I can not define these term - now after two beers ... and it's just going to get worse as I type and imbibe.  So look it up your self if you don't have a good feeling of the continuum we are discussion.  Do you agree these are on the same dimension?

When does one cross the invisible line from influence to manipulation?  Does it matter... if the ends justify the means?  Dan suggested a way to view manipulation - I'd never heard it explained so well.  I've always considered manipulation as influence in the eyes of the influencer, while being manipulation in the eye of the beholder.  Dan defined manipulation as something you realized happened four hours ago.

What's this got to do with OSA?  Turns out it is a foundational principle of OpenSpace.  The aspect of having freedom and agency to make a decision to participate.  Show of hands - who has been informed by the leaders that they were going to now start practicing this Scrum process, and these coaches were here to help you?  All the hands go up.  Who has been invited to be part of an Agile Transformation?  Two hands only.  Which set of people have been influenced?  Which set have been manipulated?  How does this effect the long term commitment to a "transformation"?

Topic Jump to Meetings - what is the generic structure of a meeting:

  • Goal
  • Rules
  • Progress
  • Participation

Going into detail on these...  but let's just focus upon Progress - how's it measured?  Maybe in most meeting by the clock hands.  Sometimes by agenda items checked off.   Are those items classified into one of a few groups:  discussion, decision, information dissemination, a waste of time.

Participation - is your meeting an Opt-In meeting or an attendance required (with unknown consequences to be determined later by the boss) meeting?  Perhaps making this explicit would be helpful in an organization of more than 5 people.  At the heart of OSA - the invitation (Opt-In) format of the events.

So how does a meeting differ from a Game?  Is there any real difference?  Fun... oh yes!  Why is fun not an emergent outcome of meetings?  Games have this very same structure.

Games and meetings have these aspects as well as structure:

  • Control
  • Progress
  • Belonging

One big difference in games and poorly held meetings is the visual depiction of progress.  In beginner games (Candy Land) the board is the indicator of progress.  It takes very little synthesis to determine who is progressing well in the game.  Chess is quite different.  How are your meetings progressing?  What visual indicator of progress do you include for the people?  Do they become motivated or demotivated by seeing progress made toward a goal?

Why are most games perfectly well run with player participation and no umpire or referee?  Is it the well understood mental model of the rules and proper behavior on the field of play?  What would happen if meetings had these rules?  Do they have rules?  Where's your meeting rule book?

Topic transition to Leadership concerns for OSA.

Sponsor understanding their role and what is about to happen (maybe they feel out of control).
 - development of theme (together, maybe a group)
 - invitation development (come finish the story with us)
Sponsor must communicate:
 - explore the theme & contribute to proceeding (artifact)
 - suspend disbelief for the duration of experiment (100 day trial)
 - invited to the post-experiment Open Space (in 100 days)

Book:  Leader's Guide to Store telling - Steve Denning

Leaders are constantly signaling - ever micro expression gets a mean assigned by followers constantly watching - no rest for the leader - never off stage, the mic is alway HOT.

Story telling is a signaling event with a bull horn.

Book:  https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/honest-signals by Alex Pentland - MIT

Emergent Leadership is like musical chairs.  People change their minds during the game; they may be motivated to move quickly to acquire a seat (at the table), to contribute to the outcome of the story we write to become our future selves.  Open Space encourages people to get a chair.

OpenSpace is a game about authorizing and authority - who has it, who is giving it, who is receding it, etc.  It is played out in a high frequency feedback space of face to face - full body contact - interactive group dynamic.  It is full of potential energy - release it.

Open Space is an Authorizing Function over the time domain of the event.

People authorize others to contribute to the shared understanding, by giving their time and attention to the speaker.  Because they are also free to seek more value if they deem the speakers value lower than opportunity cost.

Day Three:

We started the lesson with the topic of Leadership Prep - the admonishment was to "eat our own dog food" - to open space for the leader to learn about OSA to experiment with safe to fail experiments, to inspect the results and adapt to the needs of the leaders to grow in their understanding of the Open Space.  Search softly for the leader's maximum skin they will put into the game,  cut that in half and practice.  It is this experience (safe to fail) that will lead to understanding - it may be the only way for mere mortals to catch a glimpse of the philosopher's stone inside of the Open Space onion skin of powerful technology.

At some point Harold explained the inside joke of the term Technology in OST... perhaps it's useful in the simplicity of it's inverse, in it's sarcastic usage...  OpenSpace Technology requires the very first and hardest to understand technology that humanoids developed - language skills.

Warning:  Do NOT lead with an unacceptable invitation.  This was Dan's advice, and other's echoed it.  The advice seemed to come from a deep desire to short cut our journey toward successful engagements with clients.  With an action step of starting small, almost imperceivable - don't mention OSA at all - just encourage the leader to make a meeting optional.  A true Opt-In event, with the power of invitation and no repercussion for checking out.  See what the leaders can discover in the behaviors of the people - are they following - are they happily engaged - are they curious - who's participating - who's willing and able to change behaviors?

Another experiment (a few steps up the ladder) - Dan calls it an "A1" meeting.

Look up. B. J. Fogg - Persuasion Lab - I can't remember why - guess I wasn't persuaded.

We spent a bit of time discussing and practicing non-verbale signaling.  A suggested resource: The nonVerbal Dictionary.  Do you read body language?  If not you may be well toward one side of the autism spectrum.  Most everyone does read body language quite well, we've been doing it since very early - I think I heard a story that infants can read facial patterns.

Look into Powerpoint karaoke - a great team game.

Topic of Organizational Learning (time to get your Senge on).

What impedes org learning - fear. When a human is afraid the Neo-cortext is not being engaged, and the monkey mind is getting all the blood flow, this severally limits learning.

What can we do to counter act the stimulus-response mechanism over which we have little immediate control? Create physiological safety... yeah, but how? Well maybe a lesson for another time - but for sure this is a learning enabler. To check this out - watch small kids on the playground. Playing is learning. When play stops - what happened?

Topic of Informal Authorization. How do we recognize this form of authorization? It's communicated constantly, learn to sense it... it's not on a sign post, or in a sound wave - yet it is all around you. Tune into the signal, learn to amplify it, to dampen it and to withdraw informal authorization. It is a powerful force - recognize who is using this, and who is oblivious.

Review: Invitation has: clear goal, rules or constraints, a way to experience progress toward goal, an opt-in participation.

Challenges (Opt-in homework):

Invitation: What are the most simple invitations (with 4 aspects) that we can generate?

Spark some invitation experiences: Issue 3 or more invitations this week.

Read Sprit by Harrison Owen PDF - search for number of occurrences of "open space" vs "Open Space" investigate usage and content - what was he signaling?

Well expect to be surprised: Harrison Owen showed up on the conference call to share some space with our group.

Harrison Owen - discover/giver of Open Space Technology

Here are some badly paraphrased quotes from Harrison:

I have a suspicion or a conviction that:
  • life is self organizing; so, what is a manager for?
  • self organization does the best job; are we stupid to use management techniques?
"Since the universe has been practicing for 13 billion years on self-organizing principles - its not really about improving self organization; but how do we optimize self-organization to enable people?"

Read his book:  Wave Rider

Peter _____ studying behavioral characteristics with performant systems - they have zero regard for external authority.  From scale of micro <--> cosmic.  This group self-organization principle appears to hold true.  Discipline with respect to self organization phenomena :: forcing people to do something that doesn't work for them ... is counter to system goals in long run.  Distinguish between external / internal discipline :: bad / good.

Example traditional education techniques rely upon discipline - it's a destructive force.  Learning is play - Learning is a self organizational system a phenomena with a virtuous cycle.

Day Four:

Question:  what's up with this core protocol: Check in/Check Out process?
A: it's a subtle little hack - about getting a small agreement to communicate and engage.
One might also find info in Influence books topics.

Question: Harrison Owen spoke of "sitting in the Question" - what's that about?
A: not knowing - be OK in that space.
One might also find solace in Donald Rumsfeld's "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
- hummm... or NOT!


Liminality - participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.

Learning is CHANGE - it is hard to un-learn :: therefore hard to change.  Many people will make up myths to avoid uncertainty and worry - be very very careful who is allowed to create the myths of your organization.  If the leader's are not telling stories - the vacuum of story telling will be filled - by someone.

From Ritual to Theater - Victor Turner - The Human Seriousness of Play

One may think of OpenSpace as a study in authorization - imagine that one could easily and without malice deAuthorize a colleague that was advocating for a position or path that you disagree with.  In OpenSpace this should be relativity easy - see the Law of Two Feet.

Some Wisdom & Warnings:

The Proceedings - one may think the sponsor will do everything suggested in the proceeding and that the sponsor will be responsible for carrying it out - think again.

Watch out for a sponsor that said YES easily.  (But action show them as meaning NO.)

Learning is fundamentally destabilizing - a sponsor or leadership that needs stability might not be ready for a group of subordinates that are ready to learn (make mistakes and attempt new risky behaviors).

If you are actively coaching the Org or leadership; do NOT facilitate the OpenSpace - pass the authority - it will benefit the organization and in the end, you also.


----
post workshop:  I attended a one day "open space" styled conference and saw that I had learned quite a bit in Dan's sessions.  Knowledge is like magic.

See Also:
Ted Talk on the use of texture in architecture and the effects upon people in public spaces.
https://www.ted.com/talks/justin_davidson_why_shiny_glass_towers_are_bad_for_city_life

Check out the OpenSpace Agility site.  From the about page:
OpenSpace Agility (OSA) is a repeatable technique for getting a rapid and lasting Agile adoption. It works with what you are currently doing, and can be added at any time. 
For executive leaders, OSA is a template that operationalizes the core values of Lean, namely: respect for people, and continuous improvement. 
For executives who are truly committed to these values, OSA represents a simple, effective and very efficient way forward. 
With OpenSpace Agility, you can expect:
  • A dramatic reduction in the coaching & training costs of implementing your Agile program
  • A genuine, rapid and lasting Agile transformation
  • A dramatic increase in employee engagement scores
  • A dramatic increase in stakeholder satisfaction and potentially, genuine stakeholder delight
  • Predictable, reliable, repeatable, EVIDENCE-BASED improvement in overall results
OpenSpaceAgility incorporates the power of invitation, Open Space, game mechanics, leadership storytelling and more…so your Agile adoption can actually take root. OSA is based on people, THEN practices. You can use any practice or framework with OSA: Scrum, Kanban, DaD, SAFe, LeSS, and more.
Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Software Development terms applied to Home Construction

Let's Invert the typically wrong headed view of Software Development project management as a construction project.  We can map it the other way just to see if it works... to have some fun, to explore the meaning of phrases we toss around quite frequently.


Normally Project Management terms come from a construction domain.  We are going to apply the lexicon of modern software to the construction of a home.  We will follow the construction project and meet some of the people doing the work.

This is a very small (8 homes from $600,000 skyward) program in my 30-40 year old neighborhood.

About 6 months ago I saw the programs landing page go up.  It gives casual observers and some of the stakeholders a general idea of the intent of the program.  And most importantly who to contact for additional information if you happen to be interested in their products.

The Refuge program has 8 product projects and has them running independently.  Yet much of their DevOps infrastructure has already b…

Where is Shakespeare When We Need Him?

We are desperately searching for a term for people that connotes the best of human kind.  The creative, sensing, combinatorial synergistic, empathic solutioning persons that have yet to been labeled with a role name that works.

Some of the old terms:
Staff, Workforce, Human Resource, My Team, Army, Company

Shakespeare created 1700 words in his time.  He mutated verbs to nouns, and vice-a-versa, transformed verbs into adjectives, and formed words from whole cloth never before heard.  This skill is rare, but there is a poet that can create the term we need in the twenty-first century.

What should this term define?

21st Century Human Resource; the generalizing specialist.

Yes, but what more?  What less?

Suggest your poetry in the comments, let us see if we cannot do 1/1700 as well as The Bard.

By-the-way; who create the phrase "coin a word"?



A TED Play List - How do you create new words
6:52
Erin McKeanGo ahead, make up new words! In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Er…

a little feedback please...

some feedback please...
How do you like the new look and feel of our site?
  ___)  nah (I like the old one better - bring it back)
  _X_)  yeah (much cleaner and easy to navigate)



powered by Typeform
See Also:

One Dark and Stormy during a Hurricane

I'm from the Carolina's where legend has it that our family commonly just hunkered down in the home on the coast and waterways than to head for inland shelter. Now that's from the old school days of barely improved (read paved) roads. They counted a storms severity by how high on the back porch steps (about 15 - top to ground) the water reached.  I don't recommend this action in todays world of long range forecast and transportation options.

I do recommend a drink or two in a hotel bar, far far away.

This is the week that Harvey came ashore in Texas.  I live on a hill in the little old town of Grapevine outside Dallas and Fort Worth.  And thank you all for letting me know that a storm is coming... I didn't get out and walk Malibu before the rain hit, so I grabbed a hat and we went anyway.  Much nicer walk with the drizzle, I'd say.

I'll raise a glass to you - if you were not smart enough to do the responsible thing, at the last responsible moment.

I do re…

Innovation in the Automobile Industry

In the 1900s the automobile industry was the most important and innovation industry in the USA.  But one could question if this was good for our society in the long run.  And one could question if they actually innovated.

In the early 1900s there were few automobiles, very little infrastructure created to support the industry.  For example the road system was still designed for horse drawn wagons and the wagon wheel (remember a steal rim and wooden compression spoke wheel).  The future US Highways, or the 1950s Interstate Highway System at the cost of $425 billion were decades and many innovations away. There was no gas service station, there were however horse stables, farriers, and blacksmiths in each town along the roads.  There was no real "road map", there was no road naming system, like was created in 1926 - the United States Numbered Highway System.

The industry employees millions of people, and was a large factor in the economy of the USA.  It created or was created b…