at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

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Questions to:

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Preparation Checklist:

The Open Space Event and Beyond


What follows are notes accumulated through the preparation and facilitation of numerous open space events. I still refer to this list, rather than scrambling my brain trying to remember the one thing I'm missing. And of course, if I do forget, it's the only thing... <grin>.




  • need or opportunity clearly identified -- what are we to DO?
  • broad, creative theme statement that captures intent for gathering
  • interviews w/ a broad range of stakeholders/potential attendees, to write theme and set boundaries
  • invitation, incl. theme, background, boundaries, registration info
  • invitation list as broad as possible/appropriate
  • degrees of freedom determined as explicitly as possible, how open will this be?
  • registration packet...any pre-reading homework or logistical/lodging details


Meeting Site

  • large room - no tables or other obstructions, clean wall
  • breakout spaces - 7 per 100, never less than four corners
  • chairs in circle
  • microphones (2), confirm dead areas of room
  • food plan - buffet
  • computer plan - room/tables, incl. printer, 5 per 100 people
  • flipcharts and easels, one per room
  • copier plans



  • posters - theme, grid/wall labels, four principles, be prepared, one law, bees/flies, veteran strategies, spaces labeled
  • blank paper for issues posting
  • markers/tape/post-its, nametags(?)
  • bells/talking stick


Setting the Room

  • circle of chairs, NO tables, podium, etc
  • posters around room in order, starting with theme
  • blank wall or grid, labelled with space/times
  • markers, tape, pencils, nametags, bells
  • breakout spaces labelled


Information Processing

  • proceedings cover page
  • participants address/phone listing
  • ballot sheet to include in proceedings book
  • table of contents set-up on paper/disk
  • instructions for typing up notes, on paper and flipchart poster
  • issue log numbers poster w/ post-it numbers
  • computer room hours and deadlines poster
  • proceedings reports file folder
  • report template on disk
  • notes/report template on paper in breakout spaces
  • voting software and numerous easels for action planning session


Follow-up Plan

  • leaders expectations, support
  • intranet? other distribution channels?
  • conveners reconvened?
  • training workshop?


How to Keep the Space Open in Everyday Organization
(as developed at University of Kentucky Rural Medical Center and
reported by Lloyd Kepferle in Harrison Owen's Tales from Open Space)

  • Eliminate constraints on the following:
    • Who can call a meeting.
    • The type of problem or opportunity that is being addressed.
    • The availability of time to have a meeting.
    • Who may attend a meeting.
    • The availability of information necessary for a group to work.
  • Personal empowerment is constrained by the following:
    • When a problem or opportunity is to be discussed, there must be wide notification of the meeting time and place so that anyone who is interested can attend.
    • Proposed solutions/ideas must be broadcast widely so that they can be acknowledged as organizational policies, programs, or procedures, or, if they are contradictory to organizational rules, another solution can be sought.
    • Proposed solution cannot be hurtful to anyone else.
    • Proposed solutions should channel limited resources so that they have maximum impact on achieving organizational goals.
    • Accomplishing the work for which people were hired takes precedence over the group work. However, if the right people (those who really care) are involved in any topic, they will find a way to make sure their work is completed and the work of the group is brought to a successful conclusion.

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Evolution at Work: A Personal Journey and Public Invitation to Open Space, by Michael Herman (www.michaelherman.com)
© Copyright 1998-2000 Michael Herman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reprint or distribute without permission and full attribution, including web address and copyright notice. Permission will be granted gladly if you'll just say what you'd like to copy and where you'd like to share it. [email protected]