Agile Adoptions, Open Space and control

There is a fellow named Ed Seykota. He innovates. He has 2 pairs of models: a pair for 1-to-1 relationships, and a pair for group & system level relationships. His models confirm and align with the philosophies and assumptions which form the foundation of Open Space:





·       All systems are open

·       All systems are self-organizing


The Models

(1) intimacy-centric and control-centric models for relationships:

In a control-centric relationship, the parties go for control.  They use manipulation, force, threats, guilt, etc. to get each other to “behave” properly.  In an intimacy-centric relationship, the parties go for connection.  Every event becomes an opportunity to become closer and more intimate.

(2) causal and system models for dynamic behavior.

In the causal model, we have a cause and an effect.  You flip the switch and the light goes on.  In the system model, you have inter-relating elements that co-evolve as their effects on each other change.  Some examples of systems are a thermostat that intends to keep the temperature in the room constant and a futures market that intends to find a price that balances supply, demand and other speculative interests. Politicians typically apply the causal model to economic situations so as to find a convenient “cause” that justifies expenditures on their pet projects.




Now, what is interesting & concerning (to me) is the way the so-called Agile institutions tacitly support the control-centric model for relationships and the causal model for dynamic behavior, in Agile adoptions. Throughout the world.


I am an Agile consultant. I choose to focus my attention on finding ways to reduce the number of coaching days, such that organizations can reach a state of self-sustaining, “freestanding” agility faster. And here is what I have discovered: to speed up the process of change, the people in the situation have to actually consent to the change. They must be willing. They must be choosing freely. High Performance in Agile adoptions is a function of opt-in willingness to proceed on the part of the people who actually do the work.


Sound familiar?


Typical Agile adoptions today are implemented as imposed and mandated process change. By “management”. By “formally authorized leadership.” This is the control-centric model for relationships.

Typical Agile adoptions today are implemented as imposed, mandated process change. The assumption is that if we can just “make them do this or that”, we can “cause” improvement in the organization. This is the causal model for system behavior.


This is a very serious problem in our world, and one that the so-called Agile institutions are just not addressing. The Agile Alliance, for example, has various policy statements. Yet the Agile Alliance has no policy statement whatsoever regarding the harmful, mandated imposition of Agile practices. This amounts to a rubber-stamping of the control-centric, causal, imposed-Agile “status quo” that we see in the world today.


Open Space can help with Agile adoptions, but only if the Facilitator is unwilling to implement the control-centric model for relationships, and only if the Facilitator is unwilling to implement the causal model for social-system behavior. Well-intentioned management often just does not see it that way.


I’m concerned that we are entering a period where, absent any clear position statement on mandated-Agile from the so-called Agile institutions, we can expect trouble in the way Open Space evolves in the Agile-adoption marketplace.


Let’s see what develops.




Related Link: The Agile Imposition


Related Link: Sample Agile Alliance policy statement on certification


Control vs Intimacy Model for 1-to-1 Relationships; Causal vs System Model for Groups