Chapter Communications Blog

Open Spaces

Author: Patryk Nosalik, PMP

Including interview with Matteo Mazzeri, DevOps & Open Spaces visionary 

Have you ever taken part in an Open Space? And I’m not referring to an open space office floorplan, but a meeting organised by the principles and law of Open Spaces Technology. From my sharing the idea with the Events team at PMI, or posing the question on Linkedin recently, seems that very few have.

So to set the scene, we all know about waterfall vs agile, so what about applying this to the meeting itself? Think about a classic well planned business meeting. With predetermined invitees – how long does it take you to get everyone on board, match calendars etc? And nothing worse than unengaged people not knowing why they’re there, right? Of course the meeting needs a defined agenda, best sent out in advance aiming for a specific goal – get a decision, come up with a solution, whatever is the main thing we want out of the meeting, as nothing worse than a meeting without conclusion, right? Of course meetings are always at a given time and usually set for an hour or other predefined time. Finally how often have you sat at a meeting because it was the done thing, you felt you had to (e.g. your boss is there).

So imagine breaking all of these traditional meeting rules, and as with agile, not replacing them with rules, but with principles, of which here the main ones are: 

  • whoever comes is the right people, 
  • whatever happens is the only thing that could have, 
  • when it starts is the right time, 
  • when it’s over it’s over.

Plus law of two feet – if you’re not gaining or adding to the meeting, feel free to use your two feet to go elsewhere.

I’d find it hard to imagine the productivity if you told me about this, but I stumbled upon it at an Agile meetup in Geneva who were using this, they made me welcome, and it was a very engaging experience. Since then I have also seen Open Spaces at the Geneva DevOpsDays this year, a 300+ person 2 day conference, where the Open Spaces were made possible on the second day as alternatives to some of the speeches, and I saw 30+ attendees in one session. Interested in the dynamics of this type of meeting, I reached out to Matteo Mazzeri who was responsible for both the events I mentioned here. 

  • Matteo, tell me, when did you first find out about Open Spaces? 
  • It’s been a long time, I can’t pinpoint it, I find it so enriching, I started doing something called Unconferences 10 years ago. I started doing different formats to find way more interaction with people. With traditional conferences it’s really interesting to receive information but after some time you want to start sharing, and so I really needed to find a format that wasn’t unidirectional and Open Spaces was enriching in that.
  • Why did you choose to do Open Spaces at the DevOpsDays?
  • DevOpsDays is a global conference started in Belgium some 10 years ago, I’m not one of the creators, I just do it in Geneva, but the creators started with Open Spaces in their events straight away,because they also come from the free software philosophy and open source movement, and Unconferences and Open Spaces are very much a thing in free software peoplethe so they promoted it from the beginning of their event, so now when you do a DevOpsDays in your city, Open Spaces are automatic, or at least a strong suggestion to do them.
  • Are you happy with how the Open Spaces were done in the DevOpsDays?
  • Yes, we adapted a little bit how we did it in Geneva, to make it fit well the Geneva community, so slightly different than elsewhere but people that took part were extremely happy. 
  • So what did you adapt? 
  • We chose to have in parallel conferences and Open Spaces instead of a whole day Open Spaces, plus also experienced facilitators for the two open space rooms we had, and a list of topics which is normal, but what we didn’t do is to have every participant talking about their proposal in front of the public, which is sort of a tradition with Open Spaces, you have everyone presenting in front of the full audience.
  • But in the Agile meetup we didn’t do this, all the ideas on post-sticks went to the moderator and the moderator read out the ideas almost anonymously…
  • There are different flavours, and several different factors can impact how the flavour of the moment goes, there are some general guidelines and then there’s the sensibilities of organiser and people present, not a fixed rulebook to follow. 
  • Ok, so a bit like Agile in general has a common manifesto and principles but there are 70 frameworks, so is there how far can you go before you start losing the benefits?
  • Yeah, important to have a good facilitator to avoid having a single person or two who monopolise the discussion as otherwise it will go sterile, important to get everyone participating. Also if you really want an outcome at the end, then through the facilitator you have a little format that allows first a phase where everyone is sharing experience, ideas about a topic, then the most organically interesting topics go into discussion phase, then before the end we like some actions that should emerge, so the facilitator will explain the structure of the Open Space and why actions at the end, so at the end a restitution, a delivery of all the different Open Space topics from different places in a common setting, and benefit of outcome to whole group. For example a company for a specific reason, be it: a problem they need to solve; or reorganise themselves; or they need to discuss ideas that are to become projects, it’s a very good way to capitalise on the collective intelligence, and to not lose the dynamic that is generated and make it a common knowledge. But the limits would be just do the exercise and have someone talk about whatever he wants over everyone else, so there is no dialogue, or people who feel they are not useful but they don’t risk moving away like mobility rule of two feet, maybe because the rules weren’t explained at the beginning. There are some details that need to be taken into account to ensure everyone is having a good time so it is important at the beginning to share a minimum set of principles and make sure everyone is feeling at ease and good in a benevolent space, to avoid any internal fighting. 
  • Ok, but then also you have the defined time slot 5-10min per topic so if there’s something bad happening between two people then the others can vote to stop this topic and move on
  • Yes
  • Since they are by definition quite unstructured in terms of a prioriagenda points, what benefits do the organisers and sponsors get out of these?
  • The whole philosophy of the DevOpsDays more than just the Open Space itself was to create a community, so for sponsors we had a dialogue, to not actively have sales pitches but to build relations, and Open Spaces are best way to build relations, so if the sponsors really believe in what they are doing, they really have a product that is useful for the community, so they don’t need to sell it, they just need to make sure they create relations, and then the sale will happen afterwards in a much more healthy way than pushing. The sponsors need to know what the philosophy and spirit is, and agree to come on that basis, then they will be happy building real relations with the community.
  • On they talk about the benefit of Open Spaces being when urgency is paramount, conflict is present, complexity is huge, and there are diverse stakeholder
  • Yes
  • So in these exceptionally VUCA times, are you seeing a rise in uptake or interest in Open Spaces?
  • Yes, we have been believers in Open Spaces for a long time, we try to diffuse them for as long time, initially there was more scepticism to the strange structure, but now people are more receptive, I cannot put any numbers, but a great way to put different profiles together for fruitful discussion.
  • When I started reading around the topic, Open Spaces have been around for 25+ years, yet I get the impression that very few people are familiar with the idea, so are Open Spaces too Agile, too “new age” for the organised corporate world? 
  • I don’t think they are too Agile or New Age I think there is a friction in the corporate world where if you have a classic hierarchical system where managers are there to dictate work to others, and that is their power, then they will fear the loss of power from dictator to facilitator, a risk of feeling useless. However if they have some agile background, or have read about the mind-set, then they are more open from understanding the benefits for themselves directly, the company and the team. A more horizontal ground, no stars, everyone same level, everyone sharing knowledge, a shift of mind-set is necessary. Usually everyone who has faced Open Spaces says they really love them.
  • So any specific advice how can enterprises better benefit from this type of meeting structure?
  • Try it (laughs) best thing is to try it!
  • How can project managers utilise OS for the benefit of the projects they lead? 
  • Yes, during a retrospective, when taking the time to analyse the process, there are several ways, e.g. games, tools, and possible Open Spaces if you have a diversified team, that’s where you get the richness. If homogenous team that all think the same way maybe not so much benefit from Open Spaces. So at the end when analysing the developed process, but also at the beginning, to emerge how to solve problems, so e.g. on new project, where many complexities and you don’t know how to go about solving it, that could be a great thing to get all the stakeholders together to bring about some solutions. Also sharing knowledge, like the collective intelligence.
  • Oh and why the Technology in Open Spaces Technology?
  • That’s a good question, I don’t know (laughs)

To illustrate some of what Matteo mentioned I found an example of a past Open space facilitated meeting held in in Poland at the Empathy Festival in 2019 where multiple topics were raised, working to fight discrimination in multiple forms (so a complex topic), where over 50 participants from backgrounds such as commerce, finance, training, cosmetics, banking, charities, museums  (i.e diversity) a were arranged in a circle all supplied with note pads and pens to add their items for discussion (facilitation of all to participate equally, no hierarchy).  Katarzyna Kaźmierczak, a social psychologist that took part relates the WOW effect of such truly sincere human interaction with no pressure yet highly productive time spent realising that empathy isn’t just passive charity but also a need for self-awareness which allows for assertiveness.  

PMI Switzerland Chapter will hold its first ever Open Space meeting on 28/05/2020, virtually (of course!) where up to 50 active participants are welcome to try out the format, for more details see:

or follow our social network profiles for updated information.

If you’d like to participate in a future Open Space meeting, want help in setting up your own Open Space, or would like to know more on the topic, or know why Open Spaces are sometimes called Open Space Technology ;) please contact the author (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


Matteo Mazzeri

Matteo Mazzeri

Multicultural and multidisciplinary, with an agile and appreciative approach Matteo facilitates the re-organization of businesses and administrations in order to thrive in the digital age. Organizer of DevopsDays Geneva, TEDxGeneva, Responsive City Camps with Grégoire Japiot and of several open spaces and barcamps on agility and collective intelligence, Matteo often intervenes as a speaker on themes related to the impact of digital technology and positive economy.


Patryk Nosalik, MBA, PMP 

18+ years international experience in B2B sales, vendor & project management, implementing: partner co-operation programmes, IT systems, regulatory compliance, products distribution in complex operating environments in a multiple entity organisations for financial services and B2B.


Sources / further reading (links valid 21/04/2020):


Artificial Intelligence

Author: Dr.Alexander Schuhmacher

Alexander Schumacher

Artificial Intelligence (AI) increasingly impacts all industries and functions. Therefore, the question of what influence AI will have on the project management practice is also raised. Exactly this topic is now being investigated through a thesis work at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) in collaboration with Reutlingen University (Germany). The research covers an analysis of the PMI processes and the impact of AI technologies on it. 

This survey is launched to get your expert opinion and the viewpoints of other project management experts on this subject matter. Please give us your insights and to fill out the max. 10 min. short survey by using the following link:

It is without saying, that all personal information will be handled in accordance with European data protection regulations. And you will receive a brief benchmark report, after the study has been closed.

Prof. Dr. Alexander Schuhmacher


Ideas and effort in Covid times

Author: Miguel Hurtado, CAPM

Miguel Hurtado

Seat, Zara, Givenchy, Dior or your favorite beer. What do they have in common during this time? Easy, a big effort to adapt to critical situations. 

With the COVID-19 virus and the crisis situation world economy took a halt, affecting everything from local shops to big factories...many jobs have either been put on hold or put in a home office situation. But some industries have adapted very quick to help in this COVID-19 situation. 

We can find examples everywhere, but I wish to focus on 2 different examples: beer and cars. In Switzerland Fasnachtbier is very common during Carnival time, a tradition during the years but with this last crisis and the cancellation of Carnival's festivities, beer factories didn't have the opportunity to sell their product. But the beer industry reacted and refocused the production and the recycle of its unsold beer to produce alcohol for hand disinfection, dedicated to supply local pharmacies, and neighbors helping neighbors in difficult times. 

The second example is the auto industry. In countries like Spain or Italy where the pandemic hit hard, the auto industry became a good helper. They stopped the production of some cars and decided to find a way to fight the virus and help. A volunteer group developed a breathing machine using the motor of the windscreen wiper!

Around the world we can find examples of how project management provides the chance to lead change and help people.

From elderly people creating handmade masks with sewing machines to big industries creating medical devices, all these are projects and all will make the change we need. 

We can do it, if we work together! 

My first PMI event: AMM 2020

Author: Miguel Hurtado, CAPM

Miguel Hurtado

It was my first event with the PMI Swiss Chapter and I need to confess... I was nervous, like a first date or the first day in a new school. All efforts made to pass the CAPM exam made this possible so I was looking forward to meet new people with different ideas. So when I received the invitation as a PMI Swiss member I didn’t doubt to confirm my assistance.
And it was incredible, I had the opportunity to share ideas, cultural issues and questions with a lot of PMPs from different business areas. 

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But not only that, we had the opportunity to listen and learn from Sunil Prashara ( President & CEO at Project Management Institute) an incredible and inspirational keynote regarding the bright future will come and we are part of it.
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Listening different members experiences and activities regarding volunteering I had the opportunity to discover the passion of a group and the energy used to make great dreams possible.
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They inspired me to join the volunteering and to feel welcome in a group with different ideas and cultures but with the same dream : the passion and energy for PMI Swiss Chapter and PMI.
The new Board
volunteers of the year

The Art of Productive Laziness and Strategies for Project Sponsorship

Author: Daniel Rodellar, PMP

Daniel Rodellar 100x100

On the last events in Romandie before the cancellations, we had the pleasure to listen to Peter Taylor, the "lazy project manager", at CERN for an insight on productive lazyness and afterwards at Hôtel Montbrillant, to deep dive into Strategies for Project Sponsorship.

Let me start with one of the last slides on the audience with the Lazy Project Manager session:

in crisis

This one is particularly appropriate for today's pandemic crisis. Before you get the answer, let's review some of the key messages and the key learnings of the event, from my point of view.

We started reviewing the science of lazyness, and in this context the word lazy has the meaning of smart.


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It all starts with the Pareto principle. Peter says that the Project Managers (everyone in fact) should apply the 80/20 rule and start priorityzing important things.


And where should we start? ... well, "eat that frog" he said. If you start the day by eating a frog, youcan be pretty sure your day will get better.

What to do in your projects with different kind of people and behaviors? follow the Helmuth von Moltke the Elder diagram of 4 types of military officers.

Elder diagram


Be ahead of the game! A bad begining will certainly make a bad ending. And manage your sponsors. 85% of companies report that they have roles of project sponsors, but what do they do to train them? Not much. Do they thing it is important? Yes, they say. Talk to other PMs that had same sponsor. And connect with them, as you need to collaborate together to get the project to a successful end.

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You must be joking! Who would breathe normally in case of an emergency in a plane?

  • Stay calm in a crisis
  • Plan for the crisis,
  • Breathe normally,
  • Filter, filter and filter,
  • Delegate, delegate and delegate,
  • And finally prioritise, prioritise and prioritise!

 (now you know the answer to what to do in a crisis...)

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We reviewed the project retrospective, and the questions to ask, and the use of an emotional seismograph, to find the gaps between groups of people (among your stakeholders).

So what should a lazy PM do? work hard at the start and the end, not as usually it is done.

Can anyone be a project manager? No, a good project manager is a character, an attitude and a mindset.

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The second event the same day was about Project Sponsors.

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The figures are showing how important is to have good sponsors for project success, but companies do not train them.

 Peter has written a book about strategies for project sponsorship. The most important point is not the classical triangle (time, cost and scope) but the benefits for the organisation.

If we look at the flipside of project success we can see this interconnection and the consequences of getting it wrong:

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Today sponsors are just accidental project sponsors, but sponsorship should not be a side thing, this has to be a main task!

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Two pearls on the answers to the audience's questions:

  • the perfect number of sponsors is 1.
  • Projects are about business, not IT, so the business sponsor should take the lead.

And, at the end of the event, we visited the cave for the networking drinks!


And for these days, staying at home, here are two books for all of you, as a gift!


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