From the President

by Bob Tschannen-Moran, IAC-CC

The IAC: An Open-Space Organization

Are you familiar with Open Space Technology or OST? OST was created by Harrison Owen in 1997 as a method for encouraging groups of people to identify, discuss and explore issues of interest. In case you have not experienced OST as part of a small-to-large group process, here is how the process works:

  • At the beginning of the OST session, everyone is seated in a large circle of chairs.
  • The facilitator describes the reason for the meeting as well as the norms and rules of OST.
  • Individuals then come to the center of the circle, announce a topic they want to talk about, and present a summary of that topic on a piece of newsprint, along with their name.
  • The newsprint sheets are posted on a wall, along with a time and place a sub-group will join together to discuss the topic.
  • The individual who posted the topic in the first place serves as facilitator of that particular sub-group. The topic and the conversation evolve as the facilitator and the group members see fit.
  • At the end of the meeting, everyone comes back together to get an “Evening News Report” on what each of the small groups talked about.
  • Voting with colored sticky dots is often used to decide what people want to spend more time talking about in future meetings.

The norms and rules of OST include a number of self-organizing principles, not the least of which is the freedom to join and leave any group at any time, as well as the freedom to be alone for a time. Participation is always voluntary. There is, of course, an emphasis on mindfulness and acceptance. No one is ever blamed or faulted for what they have to say. Rather, they are celebrated and credited for what they have to share and what they can contribute.

The purpose of OST is to expand awareness and increase responsibility in a group. It is understood that the best groups are not organized from the top down, in hierarchical fashion. They are rather organized from the bottom up, in collegial fashion. By getting people to call out and claim responsibility for matters of interest, the process creates a transformational dynamic that can best be described as life-giving.

If OST sounds a lot like coaching, then perhaps you can sense the connections between OST and the IAC.

  • Coaches are responsible for holding the space where clients can create something wonderful.
  • Clients drive the coaching process, with their areas of interest and their passions.
  • Clients operate in complete freedom, to participate in the coaching process as they see fit.
  • Coaches never make clients wrong for their comments or decisions.
  • Coaching is all about expanding awareness and increasing responsibility.
  • The coaching process is also a transformational dynamic that can best be described as life-giving.

As a global coaching association, the IAC has fully embraced, adopted and incorporated these values in our way of working. The organization is largely volunteer-run and we are definitely a bubble-up kind of organization. Indeed, if things don’t bubble up, things don’t happen. Self-responsibility is key. When someone says they are going to do something, no one chases after them to make sure they follow through. Whatever we are and whatever we become is in our hands.

Although some may find this form of organization rather inefficient and frustrating, I find it to be refreshing and exciting. One thing is certain with this form of organization: the IAC is talking about and working on what people want to talk about and work on. Whether that is a concern or a curiosity, a problem or a possibility, the IAC takes its lead from its volunteer members and Board of Governors.

Many organizations like to boast that they listen to their members or serve their members well. The IAC takes that one step further: the IAC IS its members. We work together only in so far as our members work together. How well the IAC does that job is in our hands and I, for one, hold that as both a sacred trust and a great opportunity.

Won’t you join with me in making the IAC the best organization it can possibly be? In the spirit of OST, what do you want to talk about and how can you collaborate with others in the IAC to make the IAC a truly premiere global coaching association? What fills you with passion and energizes you about the thought of working together with other coaches through the IAC? What is one step that you can take to make it so?

May you be filled with goodness, peace and joy,

Bob Tschannen-Moran, IAC-CC, is CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for School Transformation and President of LifeTrek Coaching International. Bob is the co-author of Evocative Coaching, which incorporates the IAC Coaching Masteries® in a coaching model designed for leaders and coaches in schools.

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