Sunday, June 03, 2007

Opening Space for Organizational Systems Renewal

Just got back from opening space for moving to action as the afternoon portion of the annual conference of the Organizational Systems Renewal program alumni at Seattle University. It was a total delight to share the facilitation of the day with Kathy Cramer of the Cramer Institute. Her most recent book “Change how you see everything” is an accessible and graphically lovely plea for appreciative thinking and living. She refers to it as asset-based thinking, which she has found is a more readily understood and stickier term than appreciative thinking.

We had a big circle with about 100 people ranging from current MBA students, alumni, faculty, and visiting professionals. We had one good hour-and-half session. With little time and lots to do, we went with flip-charting highlights and next steps up on a gallery. We took digital pictures of that to use to create the proceedings. We had a wonderful lightning report in from our 14 topic groups, with everyone speaking very directly.

As OD professionals who had spent two years learning various whole systems change approaches, they had asked to see the very pure form. Many had experienced some derivative of OS, but few had seen a really clean opening of space. So I obliged with the cleanest, purest version I know how. The opening took the usual 20 mins and they leapt up ready to go, creating their topic groups in amazingly short time. Kathy had warmed everyone up wonderfully, so they were ready with what they wanted to work on.

It was interesting to open space in the middle of the event. I wandered off around 10:30 to continue my personal prep. Had an hour of meditation followed by finishing prepping the space during the lunch break (making signs, etc) then working on the invitational section of my opening to ensure it was focused properly and reflected the work they had done in the morning session.

The only down side, and it was slight, but I noticed it, was that we had to have the participants rearrange their chairs themselves, on the fly, into a circle. There was one area that wasn’t quite visible from the whole circle and it was a lot harder to keep their energy in the container and draw them fully into the field. I did a lot of deliberate connection walking to compensate for the odd drift in the energy at that arc of the circle.

It was a very satisfying day. Had faith in who was there, watched the folks get down to work, the magic happen, deep connections made. Met lots of people doing deep change work out in the world and many others trying to open a bit of space in large companies (including Microsoft! Hi Iris and Mary Alice!).

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