A friend in the Open Space Agility community recently asked me:
Hey all! So, I am having my second interview for an “agile catalyst” position at a bank in Pittsburgh – meeting with the Agile transformation team tomorrow afternoon. My plan, at some point, is to propose an OSA approach. Any tips? Brief info: the bank is at the early stages and is reportedly still in a very “fluid” state and open to ideas about training and approach, though some conversation has suggested that may not be the full story. Leadership is reportedly fully supportive. I don’t know how everyone else feels yet. Thanks
So, I responded:
How about having an “Inner Space Event?” -See if the executive leadership team is willing to gather together in Open Space to freely discuss “How Will We Improve The Way We Work?” for a few hours? Then see who, of these Executives, makes time to participate, feels passion and responsibility to ask questions, make some hypothesis, and run some experiments. Who is willing to support such an effort, and iterate on the Experiments, by removing impediments, and funding the investment to enable the experiments. -The most important of which will be: Larger Open Space Event: OST-1 where an Invitation to the people who do the work is sent to everyone in the organization….even the janitor, etc.
What we want to know is: who is passionate and responsible, and engaged in answering the big question, “How can we be Agile here?” There, Leadership StoryTelling comes from Executives about their Inner Space Event and experiments, and the Executive Sponsor supports the Willing workers to engage them in answering the question, by giving them what they request in the Proceedings from the breakout sessions of OST-1. (Maybe the Willing workers request Agile Training, Coaching, and Self-Organizing authorization?) Then OST-2 in 90 days to see how well it worked, and formulate the next improvement attempt, and perhaps Invite more fence-sitters/skeptics to join the newly forming teams. Get the pattern?
People, teams and departments can successfully step out of ways that they have traditionally worked, recognizing the achievements that preceded this stage of the enterprises expansion, pronouncing at once in cadence with valued colleagues a resounding and heart-felt “Yes And!” (an Improvisation Principle), reminiscing about the good times and bad as we move beyond them in the Griefwork Cycle, and emerge with a fresh hope, wonderment and a bit of optimism. Willing people take a bold step forward with each business experiment.
Stepping into an experiment is like when we place a puzzle piece in an open space in the big picture of our future where it seems it might possibly fit, and reveal a broader understanding of how the enterprise delivers value to the market. Turning the puzzle piece in a pivot might do the trick, or maybe flipping it over. If it doesn’t match, no worries. We carefully place it in the pile of “future use/key learnings” to narrow down what’s left to consider.
As we approach taking a big step, or giant leap into another experiment, we grow beholden to trepidation sometimes. The natural reaction is to “stutter step” which is to reduce our stride by half. Athletes in the high jump often do this on their approach to adjust their speed, correct their footing mid-flow, and keep the optimum distance for a big leap over their obstacle: a bar. Reduce by half, then ask: Does it feel right? If ‘No’ then reduce by half. How about now? …etc.
Open Space Facilitators, Agile Coaches, Servant Leaders, Leadership Story Tellers, and the people who do the work and innovate the process through which we collaborate on the work, all serve in stewardship of a new ecology taking shape in this value creation garden. As learning grows, the emerging fruits of the stewards labor multiplies and enables the seeding of further experiments, of which some will set down root in the organization, in contrast to others that wither.
The organic nature of an emerging consensus of workers, where the Willingness and life-force of passion shared across the people who see themselves as not only the responsible players in the story, but the very authors of it, is what guides the entire enterprise reliably in the direction of self-renewal, prosperity, and growth. When the entire organization sees itself as capable of organizing itself; directing funding, attention, effort and transparency toward areas with both potential to expand and a recent history of delivering value and currying interest from customers (the market), reaction latencies drop to sub-second levels, risks shrink, waste evaporates and the Shewart Cycles revs at speeds previously unheard and unimaginable.
In short, high performing teams sprout up, and thrive more resilient than weeds, and in abundance.