strategic conversations with open space
open space was a initiating element of a long-term strategy for change in the leadership culture of a corporation in the FMCG sector. the CEO, supported by the HR and other strategic departments agreed, that they do not want to introduce a model or any other kind of a ready solution they would implement in the whole company. they wanted to ask their people what works for them in their own leadership and the of their seniors and what they would need to work successfully in their teams and as a whole. 300 managers, including the whole board of the organisation were invited to spend a whole day discussing in small groups issues they find burning for the organisation and ones they are willing to share the responsibility for.
before we started the tension was high. the head of the HR department approached me with a lot of worry, whether the issues people will bring in will be sufficient and whether they will be appropriate. i guess we all know the moment, in situations where you decide to open up the discussions on strategic and hot topics, because you deeply believe the way of involving everybody in creating the fundament for it is the right thing, but just before it starts you get cold feet and want to call the whole thing off. holding the space it those moments i hold very precious.
after the introduction people did not wait even three second but jumped to their feet to write down their issues. they were cueing to the microphone for 40 minutes straight and raised exactly 100 issues, which made us run out of polish alphabet (which we used to mark the break-out spaces) and have to go for letters with diacritics, like “ą” and “ę”.
as we were doing the set-up one of the technicians brought in a large ladder, to help us hang up the title of the event. once we were done and cleaning up the space they wanted to take the ladder, to which i asked: “do not remove it, please. it will make for great pictures of the perfect circle.” and it did come in quite handy. the hired photographer spent basically the whole introduction to the open space occupying the very top of it.
(you have to admit this really does not look like 300 people, now does it? this is why i like the circle so much. it is simple and elegant, and so much more)
very fast we all were able to see how well the method resonates with the crowd. people would bring up brave issues like: “what do i do if i am a boss of a team, in which i have better experts than myself? how do i fill the role of being a good boss?” or “how to be a good boss with people i personally do not like?”
people were great and bold about advertising their sessions. here a session on “how to delegate and not abdicate” with an add on of “great conversation! going strong already since 12:05”.
card-board boxes as walls allowed participants to be flexible on the size and setting of the group.
a report of over a 100 pages was produced the same day and sent as an e-documentation to all participants the very next morning.
but the work was not done. together with a great colleague of mine, gilbert brenson lazan, we facilitated a harvesting session for the HR department, using ToP elements. this resulted in a list of action recommendation for the board, one of them being an in-house leadership academy.
ps. if you are more a fan of videos – here a report from an OST event for an innovation hub – TECHNOPARK in gliwice, silesia, poland.
dreaming – on a warsaw-berlin train.
i dreamt you came to collect me, to take my position as a shaman of our tribe.
we were just in the middle of some simulation on four green heights, each of them covering a different leadership style / space / realm, with people devoted to it and the one who lead them, or rather represented and had the decision power. we were preparing for something of big significance. a kind of event which would require all styles and all people involved – all using their best potentials.
i saw you on the shamanic height. i was standing on the threshold, the height you enter to look around and comprehend. and move on. i was standing there for quite a while now. not knowing whether i will participate. you saw me and i saw you. we both nodded in the acknowledgement of the other’s presence. standing there i was looking at the other heights, still unable to distinguish anything.
you approached me. and nodded again. this time it was a nod of calling. i knew why you came, but i let time pass. i was not convinced. i couldn’t sense the ultimate answer in me. you were convinced this is the right course of things and i felt how peaceful this certainty was. i retreated into me, to hear my song. to listen if i will be able to find it. to be in the space where the song is. and check if it will be there this time around. and if yes – what does it tell.
i knew it would. i felt it. but i also felt other songs. songs that wanted to seduce me with their rhythm. others that wanted to cover mine, intimidate it with their beauty. convince me that i will never be able to create any beauty complete enough myself. that i do not carry enough beauty in me. i swam through their seaweeds letting them slide on my body and knowing they have no power to catch me, to break me to stop. with time and kindness on my side i swam to find my song…
obviously you are a shaman connected to a system matrix. the only BUT: i do not think it is a dream about our community. why do i think that? remember the other time i run social dreaming matrix? the basic assumption of the method is that dreams belong to a community, and shall not be interpreted as relating to a single individual (for they are not their property, the person is more a medium conveying a message of significance). back to the beginning – why do i think the dream came to you now and why do you bring it to me? you brought it on the 75. anniversary of german invasion on poland (now you have goosebumps) why was i in your dream? because in the same time i was doing a huge relational german-polish work, dealing with victims and perpetrators. it was the last day of the residential, wonderful and horrifying things happened during previous days. the only way i could cope with it was by switching my polish identity with a german (some german blood runs in the family). i was thinking of you a lot, remembering you when talking to people from berlin, potsdam, munich. a pole with a dual identity, transitional object. you were not participating in the conference and at the same time you were.
one of the things i understood about germans was their incredible fear of leadership. such that even the sheer vision of it was causing a paranoid freeze, that this could happen again, that “leadership is an extremely dangerous thing”. i met germans who – by choice – have been freelancers the past 40 years, as they are too scared to hire people, whom they would have to be the boss of and it is so painful to them, they would rather put the chains on themselves.
i saw germans, third generation after WWII still so lost in the fog of war, 75 years past. not just a bit, but to an extend where it defines their lives, the decisions they make and roles they choose. i saw germans crying and raising to their feet with terror as the siren, that always marks september 1. in poland, went off.
i saw german women crying for their mothers and grandmothers who lost them not-knowingly, drawing the vail of silence over the events of war, making it now impossible to still the need for reparation and understanding. i leant that war mothers wanted a better life for their daughters and sons and this is what silenced them. but one shall not be silent. not about trauma. the jews, who know the circle way, have understood it a long time ago.
but jews have a different problem in this polarity. i understood, that after holocaust they promised to themselves never to face defeat again. never again to be a victim. did you know they also never told their children? but with a different reason entirely… shame. they would have to explain why they did not run away, fight, why they did let themselves be killed in such a cruel way. you cannot explain those things to a child. so they remained silent. they did however create an army. an army which will never loose a battle, stop at nothing, where each captain says “gyy myr!” which means “follow me!”. this army is not capable of stopping bombarding palestine, not capable of stopping the killing, it simply cannot.
this and many other songs were sung.
you will be needed.