This is a note to organizational leaders and my friends in the Open Space community, folks who want to bring Open Space to every organization that is stuck, and every organization that needs help in getting movement towards a more open culture, whether they actually know it– or not.
Open Agile Adoption and the Current (Uninviting) Workplace
Lifeless work with no meaning is a recipe for depression or worse. We all seek meaningful connection to each other, and our work. An inviting workplace connects us to the work… and each other. People all over the world are signaling that they are not longer willing to tolerate an uninviting workplace.
Creating an inviting workplace is a game. The best move now is to exploit any available entry points.
Where are these opening located?
A perfect and readily available entry point is the now-mainstream adoption of Agile software development methods. The perfect tool for cracking open the world of work is Open Space. By using Open Space meetings inside mainstream Agile adoptions, we can crack it wide open. This is because the Open Space meeting format is super-effective at generating engagement. Open Space meetings, as used in the Open Agile Adoption method, are attended by many key business people who are patrons and sponsors of IT. My experience doing numerous Open Space events inside Agile adoptions shows that from 50 to 65 percent of the attendance is business people with some connection to information technology.
Does that shock you? What might this mean?
These are the facts:
- Organizations need IT to be more responsive, and correctly look to Agile adoption as a solution
- Most Agile adoptions are far from robust. That’s the polite way to say it. The way these Agile adoptions are currently implemented does not produce rapid and lasting improvement. Many Agile adoptions are train wrecks.
- Agile is going mainstream even as traditional ways of implementing Agile are producing marginal-at-best results on a repeatable basis
- Open Agile Adoption (OAA), based on invitation (instead of mandates) creates at least the potential for much more robust Agile adoptions.
- OAA is built upon the Open Space meeting design, a design that optimizes increasing levels of engagement.
- Business people connected to the IT department attend the Open Space meetings via the Open Agile Adoption technique. These people can and carry back very positive and uplifting stories about what is going on in IT into the wider organization as a whole. They will carry and spread the open culture/ Open Space meme.
This is the secret leverage point: once the business people experience the inviting vibe of Open Space and the good results that can come from a rapid & lasting Agile adoption, the cat is out of the bag.
The horse is out of the barn.
The genie is out of the bottle!
The wider conversations that need to be taking place actually start happening. Beyond the IT department!
The business people who attend tell very positive stories about that meeting.
Open Agile Adoption (OAA) with Open Space is the technique to help you make this happen.
OAA is a tactic in a wider strategy, a means to an end.
Our cover story is that OAA is about Agile adoption, when in fact Agile adoption is actually about cultural change.
Therefore, OAA is about igniting the start of enterprise-wide cultural change, starting in the IT department.
This is where it starts!
OAA addresses the crisis in IT, and the now-mainstream adoption of Agile methods, to usher in a new era of openness in organizations, using the IT crisis as an opportunity, and using Open Space to address it.
If We Cannot Do It Here, It Ain’t Gonna Happen
Now, what this means is very simple: if we cannot successfully bring Open Space into the huge opening created by failed Agile adoptions, it is unlikely any headway can be made whatsoever.
Agile has gone mainstream. Meanwhile, the crisis of weak and failing Agile adoptions represents a huge opening to bring in a new way of implementing Agiity. If we cannot exploit this opening, we probably have NO SHOT at bring more openness into the wider enterprise as a whole. We need to execute well in Agile adoptions if we are to have any shot at the enterprise as a whole.
On Wider Ambitions
We need to do this in steps. I’ve been talking to people who want to just flip some kind of switch, skip the 1st 10 steps, and change the world with Open Space. That just is not going to happen until and unless we are able to routinely get good results using Open Space in the obvious opening: the crisis of failed Agile adoptions. Which is occurring just as Agile itself is going mainstream!
We need to recognize this wave, and ride it. Harrison Owen’s book Wave Rider pretty much spells this out. We need to identify the waves, and ride them.
If we can routinely improve weak and failing Agile adoptions with the Open Agile Adoption technique, the Holy Grail of enterprise-wide transformation (with Open Space) might be within reach. But: if we fail in using Open Space to successfully reform the way Agile adoption is currently done, we have NO SHOT at the enterprise.
For typical organizations with soul-sucking culture, Open Agile adoption with Open Space represents our best step now for beginning a wider process. A wider process of creating rapid and lasting enterprise-level change beyond software.
To be clear: the OAA technique is a tactical play, and a mere means to an end. It is the right way now, to get the right conversations going, across an entire enterprise. OAA has the potential to reliably and repeatedly bring rapid and lasting change into IT departments in organizations around the world.
Agile adoption as currently practiced gets very weak results, because culture change is hard. Open Agile Adoption represents a different approach: a people-first approach based on invitation… using Open Space. As such, it has the potential to get much better results than current approaches are getting.
It is very hard to argue with great results.
There is an Agile adoption wave. We can get on, and ride it. Right now.
Open Agile Adoption with Open Space is the way to get on.
Wave Rider (book) by Harrison Owen