I’ve been out of touch all last week, ensconced in a fascinating five day retreat with an organization that is working hard to make Open Space Technology a part of their basic operating system. We were working at a fishing lodge in Campbell River BC all week overlooking the Discovery Passage, which was filled with sea lions, eagles and a small pod of killer whales. I had very limited internet access, and it was actually a great gift to be unplugged during that whole time.
There is lots to harvest from the trip, and several bits and pieces that I’m thinking through, but here is what is on my mind this morning.
This group is using Open Space on a regular basis to take care of the work that is not in the workplans, not in the budget and not necessarily even directly a part of what their organization seems to be about. But what we learned this week is that Open Space, used in this way, takes care of the “bass notes” within an organization. There is a kind of deeper hum within every organization – call it the culture if you like – that supports the work, generates the working environement and connects to the purpose of each person. People who are highly satisfied with their jobs and organization will often feel connected to this deeper field. They resonate with the bass note, the fundamental note of the chord. When this note isn’t present, it feels like work is not connected into a deeper pattern. Understand here that I am talking not about organizational purpose – it runs below that. It is more like organizational inspiration, operating at the level of the spirit of the place. Making Open Space part of the operating system of an organization results in tuning this bass note, or perhaps sounding it again. We have a chance to open space to breathe a little, get some distance from the mundane tasks of our job and ask some of the bigger questions about who we are and where the organization is going.
The folks in this organization are lucky that the upper leadership wants to see things working this way and has provided them with the time and resources both to meet in Open Space and to carry out the small projects starting next week that keep the bass note humming. And of course, we tuned up relationships as well, brought familiarity and warmth to an organization that is spread thinly across the whole country so that people can remember how we were when we were together, something that helps them continue to work virtually.
And a few travel notes…
- There is a nice little espresso shack in Cumberland, a mining and logging town about an hour out of Nanaimo, in the Comox Valley. It’s right on the main street, less that five minutes off the Island Highway.
- The staff at National rent-a-car in Nanaimo are great. Always friendly, generous with their time, and helpful. They’ll pick you up from the ferry terminal and drop you off, but be warned that although the close at 6pm, their boss told them not to drop people off at the ferry after 5pm. It’s a bit of a pain, and I didn’t know that going in, so there was a 7$ cab fare to the terminal. Not a big deal, but it was a surprise. They were very apologetic.