Open Space Checklist

layout: post title: Open Space Checklist tags: facilitation, open space lang: en —

A colleague asked for some tips on running an Open Space. Having run many, here’s my brain dump. Wikipedia has a general description, I’ll keep this short note, copied from open space tech mailing list:

Open Space is the only process that focuses on expanding time and space for the force of selforganisation to do its thing. Although one can’t predict specific outcomes, its always highly productive for whatever issue people want to attend to. Some of the inspiring side effects that are regularly noted are laughter, hard work which feels like play, surprising results and fascinating new questions.


  • suitable venue: amount of people, time = rooms/spaces
  • placement of agenda: needs to be accessible, and easy to reach/update
  • time slots: too short, too long, include breaks, lunch and fika. Teach backs? Replanning?
  • plan the introduction: go through the rules,
  • addotional things: note taker, moderator, record outcomes where?

The Rules

  • Whenever it starts, is the right time.
  • Whenever it ends, is the right time.
  • Wherever it was held, was the right place.
  • Whatever happened, is the only thing that could’ve.
  • Whoever attended, was the right people.

Law of two feet

If you find yourself not getting any value out of the session, nor that you provide value, you should instantly use your two feet and move to another place.

Artful participation

While it’s important not to be polite and just wait for a session you’re not getting any value from to end, you may leave the session in a way that doesn’t disturb the flow, the people collaborating etc. The same thing when joining a session (late).

Helpful Options

Note taker

While not mandatory, it’s common to ask one person per session to be note taker, and record the conversations or outcomes. It’s useful if this person is knowledgable about the topic, but may find it hard to a main contributor to the session while also recording what’s happening. Rotating may be one option.

Usually, recording who particpated is very unimportant - focus on content, “memorable quotes” and what people have tried/experimented with.

Wall of Notes

Have all sessions record their learnings etc on flip-chart paper, and hang all flip-chart papers on a common wall.

Teach back, Debrief, New topics

Sometimes, it’s useful to reserve 20 minutes between each time slot in the agenda. During these 20 minutes, on person per session will have one (1) minute to summarize what was said during the session. So the 20 minutes becomes: 5 minutes gathering the people, 5-10 minutes of debrief/teach back, 5 minutes announcing changes to the agenda such as new topics and move into the next session.

Intense needs decompression

People working hard for 45 minutes will need breaks.

Use a bell

It’s helpful to remind people when they have 10 minutes left in their sessions.

Common Flow

  • Explain the agenda for the day, and this flow of how it all works.
  • Show the “empty” agenda, point out the rooms/spaces and time slots.
  • Go through the rules.
  • Explain any additional expectations, such as note taking, where to hang flip-charts.
  • Again describe the selection process

Selection process

You need sufficient timeto generate session suggestions. (For our Brewing Agile second day open space, we spend about 30 minutes from asking people to finish their brunch to when the first session starts - a majority of the people attending have been to an open space before.)

  • Provide post-its/paper and pen
  • People with an idea (or many) form a line,
  • Each topic is announced, one at a time, and put up on the agenda with an initial time slot and space
  • If you have time, let people dot vote. If you have five time slots, people get five votes. They can not spend more than one vote on a topic. The voting is used as input for (re-)scheduling of sessions, to provide good participation.
  • Ask people to re-organize the agenda, by saying “I want to switch This with That” then slowly start making the change. Allow people to react, at least 5-10 seconds and if too many people shout “NO” then move it back.
  • As facilitator, remind people that “perfection is the enemy of progress”, “not everyone can attend all sessions they want to, it’s not gonna happen” and point to the principles: right time, people, place, …

    • put them
This work by Fredrik Wendt is licensed under CC by-sa.