CornerStone Consulting Associates
Open Space Technology
Example Event

Pre-Open Space Suggestions

Although Open Space is a very effective and somewhat uncomplicated technique to introduce, careful preparation is necessary.

Once the decision to use Open Space is made, the next decision is -- who should come? Self-selection is the absolute rule and is critical to the success of the event. Everyone deemed essential to the outcome should be invited to the event. The right people for this event are those who desire to be there and are available to come.

If possible, a personalized invitation should be mailed to each participant. Even though electronic communication may be the norm for some organizational cultures, this type of communication should be avoided due to the possibility of the invitation becoming detached or sterile. The invitation should be simply stated and include the basics of location, place, time (recommend 8:00 - 5:00) and logistics. A few words relative to the theme is appropriate as it will help narrow the focus and get people excited about the topic. Avoid the temptation to explain in detail what will happen and how it will work. Open Space is a process easier to ”show” to someone than ”explain” to someone. The best invitations read like the opening paragraph of a good book. It hooks you and makes you desire more.

Facility Accommodations

Adequate physical space is a critical requirement. A large main meeting room (ballroom size) and several breakout rooms are ideal. The main meeting room needs to be large enough to accommodate a circle (or concentric circles) of chairs. One way of gauging the space needed is to divide the posted occupancy in half. For instance, if the room allows a maximum occupancy of 200 people, it will accommodate 100 chairs in a circular fashion.

It is also important to have plenty of unbroken wall space (at least 50 ft.) for hanging posters, proceedings, etc. Easy access to the wall space is important.

The rule of thumb for breakout rooms is one breakout room for about every 10-15 attendees. A group of 200 will need 11-13 breakout rooms or spaces. The main meeting room may be used for one of the break-out spaces. Seating in the breakout rooms should be structured in a circle. Additional spots (outside, pool, etc.) for people to congregate adds to the spontaneity and comfort of the atmosphere.

It is recommended that plenty of food and liquids be available throughout the day. A continental breakfast works well. A buffet lunch that can be set-up for a 1.5 hour period is conducive to each group's time schedule. Continuous coffee, soda, tea, water is essential. Food service should be outside the main assembly room.

Overview Of Event

8:00am - 9:30am
  • Opening remarks by host or hostess.
  • Facilitator welcome remarks.
  • Opening The Space.
  • Overview of process.
  • Opening of the village marketplace.

9:30am - 4:00pm
  • Small group discussions.
    (Approximately 30-40 separate sessions with about 8-10 running concurrently in four separate time slots during the day -- 2 time slots in the morning before lunch and two in the afternoon. Each time slot is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes in duration.)

4:00pm - 5:00pm
  • Evening debrief and integration.
  • Closing ceremonies.

Opening Remarks Suggestions

Opening remarks by the client host should be kept brief and to a minimum. It is important to turn the event over to the participants as quickly as possible to ensure maximum involvement. However, it is equally important to give a warm welcome and visually and verbally show support and commitment. Additional words relative to the following suggestions may also be appropriate:
  • Appreciation to attendees for coming and for caring about the topic.
  • Why we are here, or background history.
  • Restatement of the topic and the importance of it.
  • The consequences resulting from doing nothing.
  • The need for full involvement and participation from everyone.
  • Personal objectives and hopes for the event.
  • What next.
Upon completion of remarks, the facilitators will be introduced and the Open Space process will commence. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. The benefit of Open Space is that it always works, and works well.

Actual Topics From A One-Day Event

Although the focus and intent of the Open Space event has been pre-determined, the specific topics have not. The effectiveness of Open Space resides in that once the focus has been set, the specific topics for the smaller group conversations come from the participants themselves.

The following topics were introduced / volunteered by conveners in a recent one-day Open Space event of 120 participants. It took only 20 minutes to get the 29 topics up on the marketplace wall.

  • Providing Excellent Training.
  • Criticism.
  • Interdepartment Communication.
  • System Support.
  • How Do We Effectively Organize?
  • How Do We Do What We Do?
  • What Is Acceptable Use Of Computing Resources?
  • How Does One Organization Provide Support To Differing Customers?
  • Managing Customer Expectations.
  • What Is Wrong With The Network?
  • Where Is The Real Customer In All This?
  • What Are Our Own Perceptions Of Our Department?
  • How Can I Focus On My Family So I Can Focus On My Work?
  • Interfaces.
  • External Communication.
  • Why Do We Say TGIF? -- Why Don't We Do Some R&D On New Kinds Of Organizations?
  • PC / Workstation / Email Support Issues And Perceptions.
  • Improving Support For Researchers.
  • Understanding Department Structure -- What Is It?
  • System Configuration Problems.
  • Software Support, Or Lack Of It -- How Can I support The Whole Range Of Software?
  • Outsourcing -- A Help Or Bother?
  • Providing Support As One Organization.
  • Teamwork.
  • How Do We Get / Keep Good People?
  • Software Distribution To Workstations -- Auto Configuration Changes.
  • Envisioning The Systems Of The Future.
  • How Do We Meet Our Own Needs At Work?
  • What About Those Not Able To Be With Us In Open Space Today?

About 115 pages of printed proceedings were available for posting to the intranet by the 5:00pm close of the one-day Open Space event. The proceedings are not edited comments, but rather the raw essence of each of the 29 sessions. Participants can read about the sesions they missed. People unable to attend are able to learn what transpired.

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CornerStone Consulting Associates
Bringing Systems to Life
2761 Stiegler Road - Valley City OH 44280 - US

fax: 330-725-2729