Book Review: The OpenSpace Agility Handbook

The OpenSpace Agility Handbook by Daniel Mezick, Deborah Pontes, Harold Shinsato, Louise Kold-Taylor, and Mark Sheffield contains several components, each of which are described in the handbook. The purpose of the handbook is to serve as a reference and guide for those interested in Agile adoptions. A “Big Picture” is available on the OpenSpace Agility web site,1 together with several resources.2

The handbook contains a brief guide to Open Space Technology,3 and discusses the values and supporting principles in the Agile Manifesto. OpenSpace Agility is specifically inspired by Harrison Owen’s SPIRIT: Development and Transformation in Organizations.4 OpenSpace Agility starts and ends in Open Space. And Agile is implemented in an Agile way in between the Open Spaces. It’s possible to use any Agile practices or frameworks together with OpenSpace Agility.

Each Open Space must have a Theme, and is introduced by an Invitation. Proper preparation is critical. The Invitation provides little more information about the Theme, but omits most of the details. The whole point is to inspire people to opt in and write their own story. Storytelling is essential in OpenSpace Agility. People navigate the world via signs and signals. Stories are signals and signs in a culture.

Interestingly, OpenSpace Agility is based on ideas from cultural anthropology and game psychology. Requirements for happiness at work are a sense of control, progress, belonging & membership, and purpose & meaning. And the basic properties of good games are clear goals, rules, feedback, and self-chosen participation. Invitation is, as already mentioned, used in OpenSpace Agility. No one is forced to attend. Experiments with Agile practices engage people in direct learning experiences.

OpenSpace Agility assumes (1) that the introduction of Agile creates liminality,5 (2) that there is potential for a rapid and lasting Agile adoption if liminality is handled, and (3) that the best way to handle liminality is with a passage rite. Each passage ritual begins and ends with an Open Space. The Open Spaces are cultural ceremonies that serve as containers for the learning and the liminality that comes with it. OpenSpace Agility assumes furthermore (4) that Agile adoptions thrive on strong feelings of communitas – the very spirit of community, and (5) that passage rites can help generate communitas. In short, passage rites handle liminality and bring communitas.

OpenSpace Agility combines Agile adoption with Open Space in an interesting way!

1 The OpenSpace Agility “Big Picture” (accessed 2016-10-14).
2 Resources for readers of The OpenSpace Agility Handbook (accessed 2016-10-14).
3 Open Space Technology – Wikipedia (accessed 2016-10-14).
4 SPIRIT: Development and Transformation in Organizations by Harrison Owen is available online as a free PDF download at (accessed 2016-10-14).
5 Bringing change into your organization creates a liminal, “in-between”, transitional state. See Prime/OSTM and Liminality — OpenSpace Agility (accessed 2016-10-14).

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog where he shares his reading, book reviews, and learning.

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