People clamming up? Create ‘open space’

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Open space allows an important conversation to take place. Developed by Harrison Owen and fully explained in his book, Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, this technique lets people deal with issues constructively and fast.

First, invite others to share—others being the operative word here—their ideas about issues they’re responsible for or would like to become involved with. Ideally, several sessions happen at once, each on a slice of your organization’s central goal. The key requirements are passion and responsibility.

The open space concept has an overriding rule called the Law of Two Feet: If you find yourself in a session in which you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and find another one.

In open space meetings:
  1. Whoever attends are the right people.

  2. Whatever happens is the right thing.

  3. When it starts is the right time.

  4. When it’s over, it’s over.
Here’s what you do:

Identify an issue of strategic importance and invite all stakeholders. The sessions take place in a circle with a facilitator in the middle who invites participants to identify issues they feel passionate about and are willing to be responsible for. Then reorganize into smaller groups that will meet to tackle the issue, with the issue presenter as leader. At any point, participants may use the Law of Two Feet.

As a result of the sessions:
  • Everyone will have the opportunity to raise any issue.

  • All issues will receive as much discussion as participants see fit.

  • Everyone will receive notes on the issues and discussions.

  • You and other top brass will set priorities and the groups will create action plans.
—Adapted from The DNA of Leadership, Judith Glaser, Platinum Press.

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