U S WEST Open Space from Peggy Holman on Vimeo.
Peggy Holman tells us on the OSLIST the story...
How about another telecommunications company story? It was my first real experience of Open Space. The company was US WEST and the year was 1995. There had been floods in Arizona and serious outages. It was also a time of transition to high bandwidth technologies so little investment in the old copper phone lines had been made. The system was in bad shape as a result. And to complicate matters further, union contracts were being negotiated behind the scenes.
A union rep, Bill Mahoney, who also worked with Open Space, convinced the head of the state organization to try Open Space. I was part of a corporate group and got involved. We contacted Harrison and ran a 2.5 day Open Space called "Discovering Priorities". It was a wild event! The majority of the participants were network technicians -- the people who climb telephone poles. (When they were made of wood and people still climbed them.) They had a colorful vocabulary, with more 4 letter words (curse words) than I'd ever heard before!
The outcome: people not only worked out how to deal with the aging technology and get back to reliable service (a high value for the company and among the many veteran employees), but long-time broken relationships between groups were mended. My favorite example:
People from two departments who were always fighting met with each other. They discovered that their performance goals were written in a way that by definition put them in conflict. They worked out a manager swap, where they'd have first-line supervisors trade jobs to learn about each other's businesses. And of course, renegotiate goals that supported the success of both groups.
Another favorite moment: about a week after the Open Space, a meeting about next steps occurred. Rather than just managers, it was opened to anyone who wanted to participate. A number of the union people -- network technicians -- were there. One of them said, "let's hire contract workers (non-union labor) to handle the daily stuff while we rehabilitate the basic plant." This would have gotten him shot before the Open Space! What had happened during the OS was people had a chance to learn more about how everything worked so rather than making decisions from a narrow perspective, this suggestion was based in having an understanding of the whole system.
This is the event where I fell in love with Open Space because I saw the needs of individuals and the whole both met.
And I'm happy to report that it is on video. It's still my favorite video about Open Space all these years later. The Open Space Institute US, through Harold Shinsato, put it on Vimeo about 8 months ago:
Eleder BuM31 Mind Mapping-Open Space Technology-Creativity
www.in-fluyendo.blogspot.com (esp) www.flowandshow.blogspot.com