Open Space Technology: An Executive Summary

Each month, we, the senior partners of The Pillars  (  host an executive brief where we invite leaders from the business community in Montreal to join us as we share our knowledge and expertise on subjects in the field of organization development .

In June 2012 the subject that we will be exploring is managing across the generations and as an added feature, we will facilitating open space technology. Open space is still somewhat undiscovered despite the fact that it is a powerful way of finding answers and solutions so to bring clarity to the concept, I have posted an article by Michael Herman below. I hope you enjoy it and I’m sure Mr. Herman would love to read your comments so feel free to post your insights and questions about Open Space Technology.

Who attends our executive briefs? Montreal business leaders from companies who employ 50 to 1000 people. Is this you? To request an invitation please call Christine at 514-505-3068

Open Space Technology: An Executive Summary

by Michael Herman

What is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology is one way to enable all kinds of people, in any
kind of organization, to create inspired meetings and events. Over the last 15
years, it has also become clear that opening space, as an intentional
leadership practice, can create inspired organizations, where ordinary people
work together to create extraordinary results with regularity.

In Open Space meetings, events and organizations, participants create and
manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central
theme of strategic importance, such as: What is the strategy, group,
organization or community that all stakeholders can support and work
together to create?

With groups of 5 to 1000 — working in one-day workshops, three-dayInternational Leadership Practices for inspired meetings
conferences, or the regular weekly staff meeting — the common result is a powerful, effective connecting and strengthening of what’s already happening in the organization: planning and action, learning and doing, passion and responsibility, participation and performance.

When and Why?
Open Space works best when the work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday. It’s been called passion bounded by responsibility, the energy of a good coffee break, intentional self-organization, spirit at work,
chaos and creativity, evolution in organization, and a simple, powerful way
to get people and organizations moving — when and where it’s needed most.

And, while Open Space is known for its apparent lack of structure and
welcoming of surprises, it turns out that the Open Space meeting or
organization is actually very structured — but that structure is so perfectly fit
to the people and the work at hand, that it goes unnoticed in its proper role of
supporting (not blocking) best work. In fact, the stories and work plans
woven in Open Space are generally more complex, more robust, more
durable — and can move a great deal faster than expert- or management driven

What will happen?

We never know exactly what will happen when we open the space for
people to do their most important work, but we can guarantee these results
when any group gets into Open Space…

1. All of the issues that are MOST important to the participants
will be raised.

2. All of the issues raised will be addressed by those
participants most qualified and capable of getting something
done on each of them.

3. In a time as short as one or two days, all of the most
important ideas, discussion, data, recommendations,
conclusions, questions for further study, and plans for
immediate action will be documented in one comprehensive
report — finished, printed and in the hands of participants when
they leave.

4. When appropriate, and when time is allowed for it, the total
contents of this report document can be focused and prioritized
in a matter of a few hours, even with very large groups (100’s).

5. After an event, all of these results can be made available to
an entire organization or community within days of the event,
so the conversation can invite every stakeholder into
implementation — right now.

6. AND… results like these can be planned and implemented
faster than any other kind of so-called “large-group
intervention.” It is literally possible to accomplish in days and
weeks what some other approaches take months and years to

This  article has been posted here with the permission of the author, Michael Herman
You can find him at
© Copyright 1998-2002 Michael Herman. All Rights Reserved.
Please do not reprint or distribute without permission and full
attribution, including web address ( and
complete copyright notice. Permission will be granted gladly if you’ll
just say what you’d like to copy and where you’d like to share it.
©1998-2001 Michael Herman Associates • (312) 280-7838 •


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