at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

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Questions to:

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Inviting Real Organizations into Open Space:

Collected Business Invitations


Except for the very last one, the invitations on this page went out by email, mostly inside of business organizations. I am grateful to my friends and colleagues for sharing these, though I will leave them unnamed to protect the innocent. You'll see other deletions and substitutions for the same purpose.

The first of these went out by last-minute email with little fanfare. The second went out with great fanfare accompanied by the division chief pictured on Uncle Sam posters that went up all over the office, in support of the "I WANT YOU!" theme.

The last one went out in dazzling four-color text on a single page, neatly folded into a small mailing box. Their theme was "Acting - not just thinking - out of the box." They also did a great Top 10 list of reasons to participate in their event.

Finally, please note that none of the language here is "right," but some of it may be useful. As on the other invitation pages, the theme and/or purpose for each event is highlighted in bold.



From the U.S. Leadership Team of a division of major multi-national corporation:

Your palms are sweating, everything looks more and more complex. You are being asked to do more with less and you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. You feel like the chaos is catching up with you... Does this sound familiar ?

A more adaptive focus as opposed to today's purely operational approach needs to emerge from within [division] to enable a sustainable performance advantage so that we remain on the edge of chaos, this sweet spot for productive change where order and disorder flow with discipline.

Please join us in investigating together what this sweet spot would look and feel like at the _______ Hotel, 3000 _____ Road, ___, IL. The meeting will start at 8.00 a.m. on July 31, 2001 and conclude at 4.00 p.m. on August 2, 2001.



Subject:"I WANT YOU!"

I WANT YOU! - to be proud of our past. I most certainly am. The xxxxxxxxxx team has created a rich tradition of excellence through many successes over the years. The combination of proven performance, exceptional quality, and innovative solutions is our hallmark.

  • We have a very proud history, and an exciting future awaits us.

I WANT YOU! - to help define that future. The technology and competitive landscapes are constantly changing, providing many opportunities for us. It is important to understand what the future holds, but as a well-known CEO of a multi-billion dollar global corporation once said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it". This is our chance to not only do that, but to do it together.

  • There is no "status quo" in the marketplace today; it is far too dynamic. The only dangerous possibility for status quo lies in our approaches to that marketplace.

I WANT YOU! - to challenge the status quo. There are ways to improve what we currently do: to do the right things, and to do them better, smarter, faster, cheaper. There are ways to help make our customers even more successful. There are also some things we should start doing, and others that we may be smart to stop doing altogether.

  • Don't ever entertain the thought that the management team has a monopoly on good ideas. We certainly don't! Also, don't assume that valuable breakthroughs are always the result of someone else's ideas.

I WANT YOU! - to share YOUR ideas in all areas. YOU are close to the issues. YOU are close to the problems. And most importantly, because of this closeness, YOU are the best source for the solutions!

  • Sometimes it's easy to take things for granted. That is a big mistake, and one we don't wish to make. The xxxxxx team is an extremely valuable weapon that COMPANY has for waging war in the marketplace. That is a compliment to each of us.

I WANT YOU! - to know how much we value your unique skills, talents, and contributions.

  • So just what am I getting at with this? During the first week of November, we will be initiating a mission of "Charting Our Course for the Future". This is our chance to help guide and determine our path into the future. We need your individual and unique insights, your passion, and most importantly, your involvement in order to unleash the creative energy you possess. Our focus will carry an action orientation with a strong reliance on group dynamics and synergy. We will utilize Open Space meeting technology to facilitate that focus. I am confident that together we can achieve far, far more than can be imagined or accomplished individually.

Here are the details:

Who is invited? Please make no mistake here - YOU are invited.

When will this be held? The afternoon of Tuesday, 11/3, all day Wednesday, 11/4, and the morning of Thursday, 11/5. You will need to commit to attend the entire three sessions, as this is an essential element of the Open Space approach to the meeting.

Where will this be held? Hickory Ridge Conference Center

What are the specific objectives? We expect to generate ideas with high potential in at least the following four areas:

  • New work which would be appropriate for xxxx
  • Means for increasing revenues
  • Means for increasing customer satisfaction
  • Means for increasing efficiencies in what we do

Why should people attend, when they're short on time? First of all, what else could be more important than your future? No aspect of any of our jobs is more important than this. Second, we all have great ideas. Don't let yours go unshared!

If you are willing to challenge yourself by helping to invent our future, please RSVP to xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx by Friday, October 16.

Thanks for getting on board and helping us in "Charting Our Course for the Future". And remember, I WANT YOU!

Respectfully Yours, Joe



Dear Team,

Do you want to be part of a high performance organization?

I do!

Do you want to try something different to help us get there?

I do!

In the spirit of innovation, a 3-day meeting process called "Open Space" will be used to bring together any and all members of our GROUP who have a real passion for creating a high performance organization. First developed in 1984, Open Space has been used all over the world. It allows any number of people to assemble and address complex issues. At meeting's end the attendees will have produced a documented result with innovation, ownership, and energy. You will find it's NOT your typical meeting.

Interested? I am!

For several years, we have had three active GROUP-level teams working to improve our business: the xxx Team (formerly the xxx Team,) the xxxx Board and the xxx Team (formerly the xxxx Team.) We are consolidating these teams and launching one combined GROUP effort across SITE#1 and SITE#2. For now we'll call it the xxx, but don't let the name cause you to hit the delete key.


The charter of the new xxx Team is to facilitate the behaviors necessary to fulfill our COMPANY mission of becoming a "high performance company powered by our people." This charter encompasses xxx, xxx, xxx xxx, xxx and xxx xxx. Open Space Technology is a leading edge method to assure we get there.

If you are looking for a typical meeting this isn't it. Given the diverse wealth of talent, experience and resources of participants, you can count on some phenomenal synergy and creative outcomes. Everyone will receive a copy of our proceedings ON THE THIRD DAY. We will then create a strategic "blueprint" for future action. If you want to have real input into co-creating an exciting future for our organization, please join us.


Monday, March 23, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 24, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 25, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon

It is important that we all start together at 10:00 a.m. on Monday.


Lisle Hilton
3003 Corporate West Drive
Lisle, Illinois

The Open Space process does not accommodate "drop-ins," so please plan to arrive on time and stay for the whole 3-day event. A continental breakfast will be available one-half hour before start times, and there will be a buffet luncheon Monday and Tuesday.

Please RSVP by March 16, 1998 to xxx, (630) xxxxxxx xxx

Out of town participants should have their travel agent book rooms at the Hilton Hotel, (630) xxxxxxxx, and provide the hotel reservation clerk with the name of the workshop, i.e., "Open Space Technology Workshop". A block of rooms has been reserved.

See you there,




1997 Strategic Management Activities
2nd Planning Meeting - Environmental Scans


How can we get to the future if we do not know where we are today?

You are invited to participate in "Environment Scan"; an activity designed to help COMPANY to get a clear picture of the internal and external business forces that shape our current environment. Your participation was recommended because this meeting requires an open mind. Seeing and comprehending the diverse facets of our business is the task at hand. Our theme for this meeting therefore is:

"Knowing what shapes today is a prerequisite to determine our future"

COMPANY's environment is rapidly changing. Within the past two years we extended our capabilities by acquiring CAMAX and Metaphase. Specifically the later moved us into new challenges regarding markets and the way we see them. We associate ourselves with CAD/CAM/CAE and PDM; but what does this really mean ? We need to inquire into the diversity of our environment by asking questions such as:

  • What is COMPANY's market standing in its markets, industries, and globally? What do we know about our existing and potential markets? What growth can be expected in these markets?
  • What innovative behavior do we and our competitors demonstrate? What competencies do we have today and which will be required in the future? Which ones will we need to abandon? Which technologies are "hot" today and will they persist in the future?
  • What is our productivity, in development, in sales, and in basically all aspects to satisfy our known and unknown customers' needs? How fast do we bring innovation to the markets? How well are our competitors doing it? Are we comparing ourselves to the right set of competitors?
  • What is our current and long term liquidity and cash flow? Do we have the financial breadth and depth to carry new ideas to the markets without loosing momentum ?

These are just a few of the questions we are facing. How can we ever make good decision if we lack clarity about what really shapes us?

The Web taught us a lesson, speed will be of the essence. How can we tap into an environment that is constantly changing in faster cycles. How can we align COMPANY with the trends that will provide long term profitability and technological leadership. What market standing does it take to create and maintain this leadership?

And so our theme: What are the issues and opportunities present in COMPANY's internal and external environments and how do we create a picture of the diversity of these environments with enough detail that we can use it as our starting point on our journey into the future.

The map we will create will provide the needed clarity of where we are and the challenges we face ahead of us. Every participant will bring the knowledge required to understand certain aspects of this map, our collective creativity will weave these aspects into a map we can use daily to determine our future.

Some reading material to prepare for the meeting is attached. It includes (1) COMPANY's long term goals as developed by our executive management, (2) Some background information about environment scans, (3) Some background information regarding COMPANY's environment, (4) A brief summary on the technology we will use, called Open Space, (5) a printout of the computer template we propose to capture the results of your sessions, (6) some information on "dialog" which might be helpful for your break-out sessions.



Chris Armstrong lies awake, again. To this Information Technology manager for COMPANY, it was the most difficult but potentially the best of times. It was after all 1999. Besides the social clamor of the century's turn ­ people converting cash into gold bullion and the like ­ there was the clamor of opportunity at the office. While the GOVERNMENT inspected every aspect of IT's Y2K progress, one of the largest INDUSTRY mergers of all time rested on the shoulders of managers like Chris.

By now there had been countless hours of meetings to plan the 18-24 month integration that had been promised to the INDUSTRY analysts. Many, like Chris, had already promised, "Yes, IT can do that." The consolidation of commitments was a mind-boggling, complex array of overwhelming. Questions swarmed. INDUSTRY analysts, the Management Committee, the Lines of Business, the partners within IT ­ it seemed even facilities offered mind-bending questions these days. It seemed old ways weren't providing sufficient answer.

The way Chris felt lately made him think of a roller coaster. On high-energy days, the end in mind was clear, and though the path a bit foggy, was paved with the strength of his co-workers ­ Midwestern ethics, hard working and resourceful. IT would deliver.

Yet it seemed the slightest set back could pop the vision balloon: plans not perfectly aligned at first comparison, a less than supportive partner, a demanding client; Things that used to be taken in stride, all seemed to instantly zap energy and with it, patience.

Chris knew IT needed something very different. Managers across IT needed a whole new level of alignment. They needed to understand one another's intentions and capabilities at a totally different level. IT needed to change significantly to make it through this open space, a space few others have ever been.

During the session, you'll find processes and dialogue that are quite different from what you've experienced before; as you've probably already sensed from what you've read so far. Our emphasis will be to lay out our concerns, begin to form answers, and to forge a shared path to IT's success in 1999.

Here are the details:

WHAT: IT Success in 1999 - a 2-day working session. Within the first few hours, we'll create the agenda together based on what's important to you.


  • Expense reductions: $XX by December 31, 1999 and $XX by December 31, 2000
  • STATE#1 conversion completed by
  • STATE#2 conversion started by ___ and completed by ___

HOW we will deliver - IS UP TO YOU - within these parameters:

  • We will not pursue FUNCTION outsourcing in 1999.
  • We will pursue end-to-end IT-PROCESS procedures and metrics
  • We must reduce IT personnel-related expense by $X over 2 years
  • TARGET TECHNOLOGY assumptions...Process assumptions...

WHO: Senior IT community managers and leaders who know IT has committed to a considerable amount of work, and are ready and willing to contribute to delivering timely solutions to the business while we make our numbers. Those who are interested in creating specific answers to the question, "How in the heck are we going to do that!?" will definitely want to participate.



RSVP regrets only:




I know you quickly opened this "box" because you expected to find something different than a standard business letter. You thought this must really be very important -- this must be something new and exciting. While what was "in the box" is important, we want you to act -- not just think -- out of the box!

The LOCAL Area Chamber of Commerce began as the LOCAL Association of Commerce in 1913 and quickly grew to 65 Members in 1918. Today we have passed 2,000 members -- a goal set in 1996. But, where do we go from here?

"The Chamber is too large" -- "The Chamber is for only for big businesses" -- "The Chamber is only for small businesses" -- " The Chamber is for retail business" -- "I don't have the time to participate in the Chamber" -- "The Chamber offers too many programs and services" -- "The Chamber doesn't offer what I really need" -- "I never get a business lead from the Chamber" -- "The Chamber should be more involved in politics" --"The Chamber's dues are too high" -- "I don't know what the Chamber really does"

What does the Chamber really do? Or more importantly, what should the Chamber do? What should the Chamber be? What are your hopes and new expectations for the Chamber? What new beginnings would you like to see? What should the Chamber be doing for you and your business or organization?

You have been selected to participate in a process to re-engineer the LOCAL Area Chamber of Commerce. You are a professional who has a passion, concern and commitment for the LOCAL Area Chamber of Commerce -- "to provide business leadership for the benefit of the LOCAL community." Your opinion and insight is valued. More importantly, we know you will voice your opinions. This is a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to shape the Chamber's future. It only requires your commitment to participate, your candid opinion, and your willingness to shape the future.

The LOCAL Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a full day, professionally facilitated, dynamic, exciting leadership forum:


(When and Where)

This is not a 'feel good' exercise -- it will be action-oriented, fast-paced, unconventional and fun. Dress casually and get ready to work hard. The future of our proud eighty-eight year old organization is in your hands

Top Ten Reasons To Participate...

You will part of a handpicked team of unique community and Chamber leadership -- you are someone special and it is critical for you to participate -- we really want you there! We need you there!

You will PARTICIPAT -- No one will preach or lecture. You will not sit and absorb -- you will be engaged. You will discuss, debate and act. You will drive the agenda. This is not your "father's Oldsmobile" strategic planning session.

You will be free to express your ideas -- this is your meeting -- the day belongs to you

You will engage in open, uninhibited, direct and candid conversations producing new expectations, direction and goals.

You will NOT waste your time -- you will go home with an exciting sense of accomplishment -- you will be tired but satisfied!

You will decide action items, changes, responsibilities and who is accountable. This will not be the end -- but the beginning -- of our collective vision for the future.

You will be encouraged and invited to participate in action-oriented follow-up meetings and activities

You will learn and grow with an innovative facilitator known for creating change.

You will enjoy a great facility. Yes, we will provide breakfast, break refreshments and lunch -- you will not be hungry!

You will be acting -- not just thinking -- out of the box!

We will be contacting you personally to encourage your attendance. You can also call XXXXXXX or e-mail, [email protected], if you would like to save us that telephone call and confirm your attendance.

Thanks for acting -- not just thinking -- out of the box!!!!

President & CEO

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Evolution at Work: A Personal Journey and Public Invitation to Open Space, by Michael Herman (www.michaelherman.com)
© Copyright 1998-2002 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]