Open Space meetings can enable the merging of organizations, units and cultures. Whether the merger is forced or chosen, differences in culture and approach can impede effective and spirited performance. When it is clear that the merger is going forward, Open Space meetings foster letting-go of the past and together choosing the new future.

Like all other interventions, Open Space meetings work best when the context and expectations are clear and the timing is right. They also work best when the participants are given real freedom to take initiative or develop proposals with regard to the task at hand. Developing clarity as to what can be influenced or decided is a critical part of preparing for any Open Space. In a merger, it is particularly important to state what is given and what is open for consideration. Executives or managers can then choose to Open the Space as part of a change management process, for example:

Because Open Space fosters self-organization and initiative, it engages participants in choosing to work together like no other approach. Events of up to 750 people, and more linked with computers, can have a critical mass impact on the organization. It can also be combined with other planning or large group approaches as part of a comprehensive change strategy. I have used other guided large and small group interventions to clarify the vision, direction or parameters for action. In a merger, recognizing and celebrating the previous contributions of the organizations involved can also help participants let go of the past. The Space can then be Opened to engage the best energy of the new organization.

For example, when multiple units of the Anglican Church of Canada were combined into one, the frustration and anger were palpable from staff and volunteers. A national gathering of key people from the previous units was given the task of designing major aspects of the new unit. In Open Space, the anger turned into possibility thinking, effective planning and enthusiasm for the new unit. Corporate Express (USA) has used Open Space events to generate new focus and energy in two mergers with real success.

Open Space Meetings can speed up the process of letting-go and embracing the new. Open Space also fosters the learning required to both lead and flow with the new norm of continuous change.