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Scaling Engagement

Human engagement is what actually scales, and INVITATION is how you get it.

INVITATION is what actually scales. Not frameworks, not buzzwords. Not the usual BS.

Every good game has opt-in participation. Organizational change is a game.

Play it well. Learn to invite.

Playing the Game

Here is a way to play the OSA game with your client, without ever mentioning Open Space Technology, OpenSpace Agility, Invitation-Based Change, or Invitation-Based Leadership. It’s all very simple.

You DO yourself what you want the client to DO, namely:

To test the willingness of someone to go somewhere, or do something, by inviting them.

Here is the scenario: you are coaching, you are speaking to the formally authorized leader, the one with the budget authority to fund an OSA implementation (or not.) She contacted you based on what a colleague said about your Agile coaching.

You show up, and she wants to purchase some Agile training and coaching right away. After the usual pleasantries, which often include asking “why” questions (which I typically avoid completely by the way,) the time comes to figure out what is what.

You want her to issue an invite to all the teams with respect to the Agile training, and have them opt-in to attendance, with the understanding that once all the opt-in seats are taken in the initial class, any team that “wants in” has to wait… till the next class happens.

…But you sense she is not really ready to execute on opt-in Agile training. She is not ready. So you punt. Here is what you do.

1. You sell her the mandatory-to-attend training she wants, but only if she goes for this invitation herself:


Coach: “…I’m looking forward to delivering this Agile training program for your people. And some coaching as we have discussed. I also want to help you save serious money in the implementation of your Agile adoption program- I want to help you save potentially tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as you do this. Is that interesting to you? Can I help you do that?”

CTO: “Seriously right? OK. What’s the catch? Keep going. I’ll play along…”

Coach: “…To do this, to save loads of money doing this Agile adoption, I just need you to just kind of play along with me, and try some very simple things that don’t cost anything. Can we do that? I need you to play along and just do some of what I call “low cost, high-learning-yield” experiments.”

“Did I scare you away yet?”

CTO: No. Not yet! Keep going…”

Coach: “…I want you to change some of your meetings around. OK? I want you to make at least 4 of your meetings in the next month optional to attend, as an experiment. And see what happens. Are you willing to do that?”

(…a conversation <and some hilarity> ensues… as the CTO asks the usual questions, and indicates non-verbally that this idea is a bit uncomfortable for her. She has all the usual objections. She finally says no (politely) after hedging a bit. Discomfort is evident.)

Coach: OK, so how about just 2 meetings in the next 4 weeks? It can be any two meetings you want to try this out on. I promise this is sure to be interesting for you. We’ll both learn a lot, about a lot. Wait till you see this. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but…”

CTO: Hmmm. Yes, I think I could do that. Two meetings. Ok ya. yes. Let’s give it a try. What’s teh worst thing that could happen?

Coach: Wait…Could do that, or “can do that?” Is that a yes?

CTO: (laughing) “Can. Yes. Lol…”


So several things are going on here:

1. You never mentioned OSA, Open Space, Invitation-Based Change or anything like that AT ALL

2. You are delivering what she wants to buy- and has budget for: TRAINING. Bummer though: everyone HAS to attend it. But wait…

2a. You have also stopped conversations with OTHER coaches. They are no longer in the picture. OK? You are the person in the driver’s seat. You are delivering the initial training and coaching.

3. …You tested for trust and she signaled she trusts you, and will play along, try on “optional meetings,” as an experiment. With HER meetings.

4. You invited her to do something, and she signaled no, and you reduced the ask by half, and she said (tentative…) OK. Yes.

4a. You are being indirectly aggressive. You are WASTING NO TIME  in trying to figure out if you have a willing leader here, or not. You’re probing for willingness to go all the way with OSA…eventually.

5. You are doing a great job here.

6. The leader is submitting to being led through some learning. You are leading the leader. You are doing your job.

My friend Susan Daigle lamented, in the OSA Facebook group, , about all the joyful Open Space stuff going on at the Bangalore Scrum Gathering:

“…Such joy to read how hearts and minds shifted. How I wish what happened there in Bangalore could happen more in our corporate America.”

This little narrative illustrates what has to happen to get your wish Suzanne.

This is an actual story about an actual conversation with an actual CTO.

Can you see where this story is going? be continued…

Still reading? Curiously drawn to OSA? You might consider joining the OSA groups on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin:

OSA Facebook:

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