27 November 2008

What Works? Sharing our practical knowledge about making things work better in our places of work and living

Open Space

Looking at feedback about the network over the last 12 months, three areas stand out:

  • Participants value the opportunities it gives to tap into the experience others have of improving, even transforming, day-to-day life and performance in their various enterprises
  • Participants are really interested in being able to take what they learn and trying it out in whatever they do, be it running a small business, as an employee in a large public service organisation, or even outside the workplace
  • Participants especially enjoy the times when they can interact with other people attending the meetings as opposed to just sitting there listening to a presentation

In response to this, our November 2008 meeting was run as an ‘Open Space’ event. Within the overall theme of ‘making things work better for everyone’, the actual topics for discussion during the morning represented whatever stimulating and challenging issues and questions were most relevant to participants’ current situations.

They included:

  • How do you implement change in a workplace reluctant to do so, when your position has no real clout?
  • The organisation is stretched and failing; how do we create space/ money/ resource/ to change/ improve?
  • Breaking through the middle management blancmange
  • Accountants can’t do systems thinking! Or can we help them?
  • Why do modern recruitment processes seem to successfully recruit ‘non-systemic’ leaders?
  • Statistics are lies
  • How to help a Community Group manage conflicting goals and priorities – does Systems Thinking maybe have a role?
  • How a collaborative/consortium approach may work more effectively for SME client organisations than separate individual consultants
  • Should we care so much about transformation that we risk burning ourselves out, or our colleagues?
  • Can anything be done when top management aren’t interested in transformation?
  • Most people will resist efforts to make things fundamentally better – if not, why are we in the state we are in?
  • How can you sustain continuous improvement whilst facing major change (restructuring/ job losses)?
  • How do we instil learning every day as part of the day job?
  • What is the fascination in the modern workplace with competencies? Competency does not equal capability!
  • Targets are useful
  • Only people with big egos are attracted to systems thinking
  • Joy in life

No prior experience of the Open Space approach was required.  We were ably guided by Fiona Scrase.

Our facilitator

Fiona Scrase, CIPD, CPCC, is a director of Diamond Edge, which specialises in team coaching, Action Learning and facilitation. Over the past 13 years Fiona has worked largely for the public sector and brings a wealth of experience and dedication to her work. This comes from her career in Human Resource Development, her involvement in mediation, conflict resolution, and her professional training as a certified coach and facilitator. Fiona’s particular skills, expertise and passion lie in the field of Action Learning and team coaching.


Although it falls a long way short of encapsulating what was said, let alone what it was like being there, you can see the flipchart notes from the topics that were discussed.

What participants said

“The Open Space process was a great way of: 1. Getting participation 2. Focusing on people’s key challenges 3. Sharing perspectives and learning 4. Producing a tangible output 5. being able to contribute to several topics/groups In addition, focus and discussion on issues/challenges enables a wider range of tools/approaches/experiences to get airtime in what is a quite a specialist interest group. Well done! I enjoyed the session.”

“Longer time (You cannot do this, I know). I was a bumblebee. Becoming a butterfly would be a new skill for me!”

“It was brilliant. I loved David’s geese poem and really liked it when he said “Remember, you don’t have to be good”. That made me feel much better and more relaxed about participating.”

“It was a very interesting and stimulating morning but not sure what was achieved.”

“There were a number of topics I would have liked to been involved with or listened too but due to the lack of time never got to hear them.”

“It seemed to go very quickly.”


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