Biography

You can learn quite a lot about me and my work by clicking around this website. This page pulls the most important bits together in a more formal biography.


Michael Herman’s wide-ranging experience is all about organization effectiveness. For nearly thirty years, he’s worked to bring people together, identify and prioritize what’s most important, and create the conditions for getting those things done.

Michael started as a financial consultant serving large-scale hospital projects but, as the most junior person in his firm, he also initiated communication practices to help his widely distributed colleagues work together better.

Next, he led urban and wilderness learning expeditions with Outward Bound, before launching Michael Herman Associates in 1991, specializing in the design and facilitation of team learning activities. Proudly, one of his first team training engagements supported the opening of a large cancer treatment center he’d previously served as a financial and project planner.

Since then, Michael has contributed to reorganization, leadership development, business process analysis, employee engagement, and strategic planning processes. He’s worked with the leaders of community organizations and Fortune 50 companies on six continents. He’s facilitated board retreats, large summit events, and the creation of self-managing teams. He’s served as interim manager, classroom trainer, volunteer mediator, Scrum Master (CSM) and Agile Coach.

He is best known for his work as a facilitator, teacher and leader in the practice of Open Space Technology. He founded (in 1999) and manages the openspaceworld.org global practice website, has served on the board of the Open Space Institute US, has authored/edited numerous articles on the practice of Open Space, and has been an active, innovative contributor to the international development of the practice — even as his work continues to be informed by many other methods and practices.

When Michael discovered Agile software development, while facilitating part of the Agile/XP Universe conference in 2002, he said: “You’re making software in Open Space!” Years later, he contributed to the development of Open Space Agility and OpenXP approaches. Most recently, he’s been certified to teach the Enterprise Scrum framework for Software Scaling and Business Agility, which leverages so much of his previous experience.

In first grade, Michael came home one day totally fascinated by “division of labor.” Later, he earned a BA in Economics at Indiana University and an MBA in Finance at the University of Chicago, fascinated by the dynamic complexity of markets. He was twice a student with Outward Bound, on winter mountaineering and sea kayaking expeditions. Why couldn’t work be more like an expedition team or a market, he wondered? But it was his father’s experience, inside the bureaucratic hierarchy of an iconic American industrial corporation, that catalyzed Michael’s quest for more dynamic, sustainable and joyful ways of organizing and working together – for everyone.

Michael makes his home and headquarters, with his wife Jill, in a classic Chicago bungalow, now almost fully restored (having done much of the work himself), in a historic north side neighborhood, on the west bank of the Chicago River.