Leadership PreparationWhen implementing OSA, leadership preparation is essential.

The formally authorized leaders must be prepared for what follows. If they are not prepared, the implementation will fail. These leaders must communicate extremely well to the entire enterprise before, during and after the Open Space meetings that are the central events of any OSA implementation.

During an Open Space meeting, someone with substantial formal authority in the organization– a well-known leader–  welcomes the group. They explain the purpose and Theme of the meeting, and also make a public commitment to support action on the Open Space Proceedings.


Leadership preparation is not a one-step process but rather, an incremental one. These steps include:

  • Understanding the difference between a mandate and an invitation, in terms of the huge differences in the typical results of each style.
  • Understanding the Open Space meeting format, and their role as Sponsor (host) of these events.
  • Understanding the importance of Leadership Storytelling before, during and after Open Space events.
  • Understanding the importance of supporting and encouraging Emergent Leadership.

For OSA practitioners, it is important to understand that progress is incremental. Real progress (and ongoing success) comes from continuously inspecting how the enterprise is responding, and then adjusting to that. This truth also applies to preparing and guiding the formally authorized leaders: they too will tend to make progress in their understanding in small steps, little by little, as they learn about the power of invitation to manifest change.

OpenSpace Agility contains a kit – a set of guidelines, resources and artifacts – that supports the ongoing work of educating formally authorized leaders. Here are three pre-work exercises for executives that you can try. In in each pre-work exercise, you are inviting the execs to suspend their disbelief, briefly work in a new way as an experiment, and inspect the results.  You are testing their willingness to try something new. To experiment with something. To suspend disbelief.

How they respond is super-valuable data for you, as you make your assessment of just how ready they are for OSA.

Or not.

Preparing for OpenSpace Agility (OSA): Pre-work with Executives

  • Experiment: LEADERS GO FIRST

Here are some exercises for OSA consultants to suggest, and for enterprise leaders to consider. Each of these actions is 100% aligned with OSA and as such, each action helps everyone to prepare. As they get direct experience, they will “pull” more teaching and knowledge out of you, in the form on questions. These questions are generated from direct experience rather than lectures or classroom lessons.


Training in Agile methods usually precedes the first Open Space event in OSA, called “OST-1.” Participants need to be familiar with Agile ideas and the general plan to try them, in advance of that first big Open Space meeting.

Question: Why not limit each class to a capped & maximum number of participants, and then issue an invitation to everyone and see who says YES to that invitation? Why not work with willing teams, and identify them by seeing which teams want to make this commitment?

WORK WITH THE WILLING means exactly that: invite everyone, and work with the participants who respond a specific deadline, or (even better) limit the attendance to the first N participants (or teams) who respond. Now you are working with the willing people, and you know who they are. Now there is alignment. Now the good stuff can and will happen.

Work with the willing.


If enterprise leaders are unwilling to do their leadership work in an Agile way, how credible is their interest in using Agile methods for continuous enterprise-wide improvement? Answer: Probably not very credible at all. Leaders can go first. Leaders can use a Kanban board to make work visible, they can have a daily Scrum-like meeting, and they can present a demonstration of their work to subordinates at the end of each month. LEADERS GO FIRST literally means “leaders go first in terms of working in an Agile way.” In so doing, leaders make work and plans visible to the entire enterprise- visibility that helps everyone understand intent, plans and results. In OSA we invite the leaders to try Agile methods for three or four 1-month iterations, as an experiment to be inspected. An experiment. To be inspected.

Not a lifelong commitment!

Leaders go first.


Some executives may be unable or unwilling to commit to a small Agile experiment like LEADERS GO FIRST. If they are unwilling, this is usually not a good sign. However, there may be very good reasons why not. They might not like the idea of inviting teams to opt-in to training. They might have some “good reasons” for that hesitancy also.

In cases where leaders are hesitant, it’s good idea to “reduce the ask.” Here is one way:

OSA practitioners are advised to ask executives if they are willing to make one or two meetings optional to attend, again as an experiment to be inspected. This is actually a smaller WORK WITH THE WILLING experiment. It’s less of an ask; a lower commitment and therefore easier for them to say YES to.

All three pre-work exercises are way of getting practice and experience with the entire idea behind OpenSpace Agility, namely this one:

When all the willing people are actually choosing to participate, great things can and will happen.

There are many other pre-work exercises that OSA Practitioners are doing with executives, out in the field inside engagements worldwide. To examine a listing of OSA Practitioners throughout the world, click here.