Thursday, May 03, 2007

Open Space Technology

Craig Larman conducted an Open space technology event and I had the opportunity to be part of the event. This is the first time that I participated in such an event. Open Space Technology(OST) is not really like a technology, but a way of conducting events, meetings, conferences, etc.

During OST, the session could start with a specific theme. In our case, it was about Agile methods. When the participants assembled in this huge hall, Craig requested people to come forward with a burning issue related to the theme. Volunteers(conveynors) started pouring in with their burning issues written on a post-it, and pasting the same on a specific time slot.

Once the time slots gets filled, the conveynors would go to their respective counters, and interested participants can join the discussion.

some good things that I noticed:

1. The time passed so fast that, I didn't feel that it was a meeting. Enjoyed every minute of it
2. Lot of issues came up during the event.
3. participants can get full value of such events, as they can chose the topic.
4. Pretty informal setting

This might be a premature statement, but I felt that OST may not be effective if the safety and trust of participants is not built during the session. This is especially applicable if the theme is on solving burning issues.
For ex: if the team is planning to solve some people related issues of an organization using OST, senior management team present during the session might add a fear in team's mind. The fear would be due to the repercussion for being open.

It is also quite possible that, senior management by being in authoritative position, can hijack discussions. So, good facilitation skills are needed by conveynors to handle such situations.

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