Totus Consulting’s Open Space Event

Open Space Technology [Link] is a technique that is finding increasing use among HR professionals. Prof. [Dr.] Madhukar Shukla of XLRI used it frequently at the institute to generate ideas on broad issues of importance. Renowned trainer Mr. Mirza Yawar Baig [Link] introduced me to it. The results of Open Space are almost always very encouraging, it brings high energy, and what surprises participants is the fact that it requires so little intervention of a facilitator.

When Ganesh Chella, Founder Director of Totus Consulting [Link] invited me to his Open Space Event on Employee Relations I was very happy. I confirmed my participation in minutes after receiving his mail.

Over 60 participants attended the event, and they came with varied background, HR Managers, Consultants, Union Leaders, Advocates and Counsellors, you found them all there. The diverse backgrounds help bring various perspectives to the table and this purpose was indeed well served.

The theme of the Open Space event was “The time to protect and preserve the employee relations climate in India is now”.

The problems with words like ‘Employee relations’ or ‘industrial relations’ is that wrong images are associated with it. People actually mean industrial disputes when they talk of industrial relations! They speak of charge sheets, enquiries, strikes, lock-outs and violence. The entire relationship is perceived as adversarial. While this was the case in the past, what does the recent experience indicate? Things are changing, for better. There may be a sporadic event as in Pricol but to call it a trend is a leap of generalisation.

Today many organisations, including some trade unions, have realised that organisational solidarity and effectiveness is essential for survival. Dozens of organisations are practising participative techniques that harness energy and talent of the workforce in their quest to improve quality and productivity. We have witnessed many employees participating in 5S, Small Group Activities, Kaizen, Quality circles, TQM, TPM etc. Indeed HR has intruded IR activities completely now. And I would say it is a welcome change.

But as it happens in real life situations, good work receives little publicity; it is always the catchy news of violence that is reported in gory detail; that sticks in the minds of people.

We are on the threshold of important era. Unions are no longer as adversarial as they were. This is the time for using ‘influencing’ and ‘building consensus’ for better employee relations and not power play.

Ganesh Chella and his team have done a wonderful job in organising Open Space event that generated and reinforced this awareness of opportunity. This is why perhaps they focused on the theme “The time to protect and preserve the employee relations climate in India is now”. Yes, indeed!