Open Space Technology (OST) is an approach for hosting meetings, conferences, corporate-style retreats, symposium, and community summit events, focused on a specific and important purpose or task—but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme.
I have become quite intrigued by this method and was first introduced to the concept several years ago by Jim Benson, co-author of Personal Kanban. You can even try it out by holding a Lean Coffee session of your own:
What is a Lean Coffee? Essentially, a Lean Coffee is a group of people working together to learn about lean in an informal setting. It's like a mini-unconference where the participants decide on the schedule. The timeframe is typically one to two hours. The number of people is best between 6-8 but 4-10 works fine. One person facilitates these actions:.
- Everybody writes down topics they'd like to discuss on stickies placing them in a column in the center of the table. Give as much time as needed, but typically takes only 3-5 minutes.
- Each topic is briefly described by its writer (15-30 seconds typically per stickie).
- Each person gets three votes which they indicate by marking the voted for stickie with a dot (they can put as many votes as they like on one stickie).
- The top three stickies are placed in a new column, ordered by the stickies with the most votes at the top
- Each of these stickies are discussed for 5-15 minutes. When the facilitator thinks the discussion has reached a good end-point she asks if everyone is complete. When complete move the stickie over into a new column that represents 'done'. Repeat step until all done.
- If enough time is left over, do another stickie or two.
- Celebrate being done.
Lean Coffee Template on Google Docs
When is the last time you went to a conference and came away thinking the coffee breaks were the best part of it. The LSSC 2012 - Lean Systems Society conference this year held a day long Lean Camp before the 3-day conference which followed this open space type thinking. They also held the Lean Coffee sessions each morning of the conference. The only problem with doing that is that it made it extremely difficult to attend the morning keynote. The Lean Coffee was that engaging, and they never used my topic either.
In this podcast, John Steinbach follows up from yesterday’s podcast, Opening Appreciative Space Process 1 and his approaches with more discussion on the Open Space concepts.The process starts with Appreciative Inquiry; a positive approach to change that can be used by individuals, teams, organizations, and communities. Both of these podcast serve as great introduction to this ever-growing concept.