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Inviting Leadership: Collected Stories

from Harrison Owen, OST originator...

I had as a client a large American software/systems integration company. Each year they put on a weekend "retreat" for their clients which consisted largely of Talking Heads and a great deal of eating and drinking. Eventually the clients objected (didn't come) and it was resolved to try something new -- OS to be specific.

The clients in question were major banks and other financial institutions. The theme was, "Issues and Opportunities for building IT support for the Financial Community." We had a whole day. When the issues were posted, it became clear that most were from clients, and constituted their "wish list." This is called market research. As the groups convened, participants included not only clients, but also "staff" from the host company (techies, sales, execs, etc.) And there was a real buzzz.

It quickly became clear that the groups were going way beyond just talking about new products and approaches -- they were doing it. I watched one group where the clients were actually writing software for products they would eventually buy. This is called Co-Design -- or how to get the client to do all the work.

My clearest memory was of one of the VPs leaning against the door frame, watching what was happening. He was shaking his head, and when I came up he said something like, "Harrison, I think this may be immoral. Pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel." I replied that I thought it was just good business.

By the end of the day something like 6 new products had been sketched out, and 5 actually went to market. Indeed they had been "sold" before we left, and all developmental costs covered. Not too bad for a single day's work.


another case of software development, agile/xp programming...

circle, marketplace, bboard, breathing.

now, map that to extreme programming(XP). old-style planning-driven software development is the two year plan and delivery of software in six or nine month chunks. hopefully when the two years is finally delivered, the business needs haven't changed. ha! okay, so XP delivers software every two weeks. they sit WITH the customer, identify needs. they put them on 'story cards', one need/module per card and spead them out on a table. each pair of programmers grabs one card and works on it for one iteration, 1.5 hours to perhaps 3 days. they come back together after each iteration to compile and green light what's done and identify what's stuck. sounds a lot like morning news and breathing and the rest of open space.

next, think about learning. in an XP environment, a new hire will come in and be paired with an veteran programmer for 2 weeks. switch for two weeks. switch again for two weeks. end of six weeks, new hire is ready to be paired with next new hire. this learning ought to be possible in other places two.

next, productivity. at this conference, one organizer brought one client, a non profit group that needed a piece of software written to meet some specific business needs. they called it XP Fest. they worked nine hours, in six 1.5-hour iterations. anyone who wanted to program could come work on it. they had five computers, so ten workers per cycle. they used a new language called ruby, so people could learn it. 75% of those working didn't know the language when they started. the organization experienced 75% turnover in personnel during the six iterations. the had working software when they left that needed only one more iteration to be fully equipped.

shifting back to open space, i am thinking that software groups like this, and their clients are ripe for open space. i think their stories and our stories travel nicely together, reinforcing and supporting each other. i also envision a day when we are growing facilitator groups within organizatinos, so that managers can facilitate each other's groups, in a sort of partnered opening/managing function. paired leadership (facilitator and sponsor) a parallel to paired programming. and when organizations learn to open space for themselves, they will really start to wake up...



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Last edited August 18, 2006 11:49 am CentralTimeUSA by MichaelHerman
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