SESSION: OST and Conflict

Convener Elwin Guild

Tuesday 3 – 5 PM

Participants: Harrison, Sue Inches,?????????

Four Case Studies were presented as examples of a wide variety of
conflict instances where Elwin used OST.

1. Last week’s consulting contract with a small and defective office
within the U.S. Dept of Interior. This was a two-day “team building”
workshop that was in reality a “set-up” to eliminate/terminate one of
the office employees. The new boss felt this person was an
obstructionist and determined to cause trouble for him.

This background was unknown until three days before the workshop, which
Elwin had already announced to be an Open Space event.  

Given this last minute news, Elwin went to the OSLIST and asked for
advice. Elwin received 14 responses and all concluded by saying, “go
for it!”

Elwin rewrote the workshop invitation and provided a new theme in place
of the previous announcement of “team building.” The new theme was,
“How can we find joy and satisfaction in our work?”

All six members of the office were present from the new Director to the

I opened the workshop with a half-day communications exercise. In the
remaining half day, Space was opened and 5 Issues were posted. All
dealt with the need for harmony.

Elwin left the room as soon as the marketplace opened. Elwin returned
near the 5 PM closing hour and found everyone deeply engaged. The group
did not stop its session until nearly 5:30 PM.

The second day was devoted to revisiting the 5 issue sessions and
expanding on some elements of each. Next the group discussed and agreed
on specific actions to be taken to improve relations and operations in
the office.

At the closing circle each member committed to work more
collaboratively and to work as a group more often.

The best statement was, “ I think we should look at today as a new
start and opportunity to bring pride back to ourselves and our office.”

2. A 2 1/2 day OST for an International Consulting firm that just
underwent a senior management coup d’etat in order to launch a “global”
marketing strategy.

This OST engaged 160 employees of a newly expanded business. Because
this was the result of by-outs and mergers most of the participants had
never met. 

The CEO was concerned that the change and loss of original partners
would negatively impact the new firm’s need for energetic engagement. 
The OST theme was “How do we create a global vision?”

At the closing the CEO stated that OST had far exceeded his wildest
expectations for creating a common vision.

3. A series of four 2 1/2 day OSTs each with 30 participants
representing Croat, Serb and Bosnian Muslim NGO leaders in equal
numbers (10). The objective was to find improved management strategies
for post-war operations.

Elwin explained that in preparation for each OST a person from each
group would in private conversation mention that “NATO had arrived a
month to soon!”  This meant that if “they” had a little more time they
would have killed all of the enemy that they are now forced to coexist

During each OST the participants arranged for a dance party that
included local folk groups, poetry contests, gag gifts/prizes, and
various skits.  Each of these occasions reminded Elwin of an Irish
Wedding!  One would never know that at the outset they viewed each
other as mortal enemies.

Harrison joined the session at this point and presented his experiences
in the “Practice of Peace.” Many questions were sparked by his several
stories of OST events in the Middle East. It is fair to say that in the
end all were agreed that OST thrives on CONFLICT, PASSION and

4. The surrender of the Communist National Dairy Union to the Bulgarian
Dairy Association during a 2 1/2 day OST with 253 participants.

This OST brought together an equal number of Communists and new
Democrats all of whom shared a life’s interest in the dairy business.
The agriculture economy was a total chaos and the Government had no
clue as to what to do.

The theme was, “Can we build a new dairy economy in Bulgaria?”

To everyone’s surprise in 2 1/2 days a national association was formed
and its leadership chosen and all stakeholders were included. Not a
shot was fired.

Today this trade association is the leader in the former USSR and
highly respected in Western European circles as well.

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