With a joint Open Space conference, the next step on the road to digital change has been taken with Geberit

With a joint Open Space conference, the next step on the road to digital change has been taken with Geberit

Participants from Geberit and foryouandyourcustomers enjoy a lively discussion on new and existing topics.

Since our company’s founding, for​you​and​your​cus​tom​ers has relied on Harrison Owen’s tried-and-tested Open Space Technology (OST), a participant-driven approach to holding conferences and multi-day meetings. This method aims to further develop projects, topics and employees and the organisation itself. The special thing about this format is that the agenda is created by the participants themselves and participation in the conference and in the individual sessions is completely voluntary.

Now foryouandyourcustomers wants to increase its use of the OST method in collaboration with customers as well. This occurred for the first time with Geberit. Held online due to Covid-19, the two-day event involved discussions about projects, in-depth looks at topics, the introduction of new subjects and the initiation and strengthening of collaboration, both internally and externally. For Stefano Giacomello, Head of Product Data Management Applications at Geberit, it was “another successful step in the shared journey of the two companies”.

He hosted his own session (“Collaborative Processing of Product Data”) and took part in many others. With the click of the mouse, Stefano Giacomello left the virtual Open Space room as the topic of “Master Information Governance” came up. It was the last time slot of the Open Space event for workshops, meetings and sessions – and he left it satisfied with the result.

“It’s certainly a fantastic format: it drives innovation, it’s scalable and it will hopefully bring long-lasting value for our entire company. The most important thing for me was that the employees take advantage of the time spent here. Use the content to help Geberit progress further in certain topics and projects and to evaluate new subjects that they learned about in expert discussions around feasibility. But it was also important to use this opportunity to cultivate and maintain our partnership with foryouandyourcustomers,” Stefano Giacomello told foryouandyourcustomers in his initial unsolicited feedback to the organiser of the event.

Further development of topics and of oneself

The 25th session came to an end, and all that was left was a traditional closing discussion where feedback was collected from all the participants. Over two half-days, Geberit and foryouandyourcustomers had worked on the joint projects or encouraged relevant employees to actively participate in the Open Space conference – or not, if they so desired. Active participation was voluntary for the 40 registered employees from Geberit’s Business and IT departments and for the foryouandyourcustomers employees there. Deciding on and developing the individual topics for and within the one-hour sessions were also voluntary activities. 

“Managers do not force participation or set topics of discussion. Instead we are looking for volunteers, self-initiative and accountability, and self-organisation. These are the attributes that an Open Space conference demands and encourages.”

Daniel Stadelmann, Senior Consultant at foryouandyourcustomers

“Managers do not force participation or set topics of discussion. Instead we are looking for volunteers, self-initiative and accountability, and self-organisation. These are the attributes that an Open Space conference demands and encourages,”says Daniel Stadelmann from foryouandyourcustomers, who assisted at the conference as a facilitator. The senior consultant has been a constant liaison between Geberit and foryouandyourcustomers since the start of collaboration with the global sanitary products corporation – a partnership which began with the first digitisation project over five years ago.

“The use of Open Space Technology is a fundamental part of the corporate culture of foryouandyourcustomers. It is an extremely powerful tool and helps us further develop people and therefore business alike with success in the modern era. Using this method we are able to organisationally create an environment that empowers and encourages people to take ownership, to further develop themselves and their topics, and to self-organise their projects and work across teams. I have had thoroughly positive experiences with this method, which is my main reason for presenting it to Geberit and integrating it in our shared journey to digital change. Especially due to the increasing complexity of the digital landscape, it is crucial for employees to be able to bring their strengths and skills to the table in a self-empowered way, and take ownership in their work. Traditional approaches focused on controlling the process inhibit progress here and simply stop being appropriate for overcoming the challenges faced,” explains Daniel Stadelmann.

Everyone was able to suggest a topic for discussion.

Open Space is a “sensational format”

“It’s natural to have some teething problems the first time a new format is tried out, and we did see that with some participants at the beginning, especially when it came to suggesting topics and interacting in the individual sessions,” Stefano Giacomello admits. “It’s a new method for us, plus the fact that it was online, so we had to try it out and learn as we went.” Some participants needed a bit more time to get used to the format, while others such as Aileen Schmidt and Nico Schmid quickly got to grips with it.

“The format is sensational,” Nico Schmid, Master Data Manager MDM – Data Logistics, raves to his colleague.

“Since everything is voluntary, the other people in the sessions are as interested in the topic as you are, and some of them have so much knowledge in this field or other related experiences, and they share this with you.” Aileen Schmidt, Master Data Manager MDM – Data Factory STEP at Geberit, agrees and adds: “And they help you in your own project work and in developing the topic further. I myself suggested having a workshop on master information governance and got a lot of good input during it. We even scheduled follow-up meetings which would not have happened without this conference format.”

“You can share knowledge and experiences from your own projects, discuss topics that interest you or that involve your work, exchange ideas and visions, and do some informal brainstorming: with this kind of event you have the opportunity to think outside the box, learn different perspectives on a topic, come to a shared understanding with others and generate new synergies that you would not be able to produce in your own internal ‘closed’ team meetings or workshops.

The Open Space conference encouraged personal exchange between internal and external colleagues.

All of these aspects made the sessions extremely valuable to me,” Nico Schmid concludes. “And don’t forget,” adds Aileen Schmidt, “that you are cultivating new contacts, for example, with external colleagues who are working on the same project as you but whom you have not previously had the chance to meet in person. And you are meeting people from other departments in your own company, with whom you have not yet ever been in contact, and learning more about their projects and what they do. It gives you a new sense of community and camaraderie.”

According to the two master data managers, the next Open Space session may take place very soon. “We might even do it with other departments within Geberit,” suggests Aileen Schmidt.

It’s a suggestion that Stefano Giacomello is keen to take up. “I can absolutely see us continuing with this format together with foryouandyourcustomers and even using the format internally as well. We will certainly be discussing when and how that will occur in the near future.”

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