Biography

Three decades into this adventure, I’ve invited and supported agility, learning, and high performance on six continents. I’ve worked to bring people together, helped them identify and prioritize what’s most important, and created the conditions for getting those things done, in faster and easier ways. The “Inviting Organization” I wrote about in 1998 is emerging everywhere today as “Enterprise Agility.”


I’ve always been fascinated by how things work. On my first day in first grade, we learned about “division of labor.” We must have been learning about cleaning our classroom, but I could talk of nothing else at dinner that night. Later, I earned a BA in Economics at Indiana University and an MBA in Finance and Healthcare Administration at the University of Chicago, fascinated by the dynamic complexity of organizations and markets.

Relationships matter. I started as a financial and project planning consultant, serving large-scale hospital projects. But as the most junior person in my firm, I also initiated communication practices that helped our whole organization work better. Proudly, when I started Michael Herman Associates, specializing in team learning, one of my old hospital clients trusted me to train the whole staff of the cancer center I’d helped plan.

Toward a new way of working. I’ve traveled twice as a student with Outward Bound, on winter mountaineering (photo) and sea kayaking expeditions. Later, I led urban, wilderness and corporate teams courses, wondering: Why can’t work be more like an expedition team or an efficient market? But it was my Dad’s experience, in the bureaucratic hierarchy of an iconic American industrial corporation (and then the cardiac care unit), that really sparked my quest: to find and share more engaging, effective, and sustainable ways of working together.

Along the way, I have…

• Studied and practiced with more than my fair share of renowned thought leaders, innovators, and social change agents.
• Contributed to corporate reorganization, leadership development, business analysis, employee engagement, community building, and strategic planning processes.
• Facilitated board retreats, large corporate and community summit events, and the learning of new agile teams.
• Served as interim manager, classroom trainer, workplace mediator, conference presenter, and business agility coach.
• Worked with the leaders from local community organizations, Fortune 50 companies, and everything between.
• Advised, reviewed or contributed content to at least seven books published by others.

I’m known internationally for my work as a facilitator and teacher of Open Space Technology. I created and still manage the OpenSpaceWorld.org website. I’ve served on the board of the Open Space Institute US, authored/edited numerous articles and books on working in Open Space, and been active in growing the international practice community. But my work continues to be informed by many other methods and frameworks.

I introduced the Agile software development community to Open Space, facilitating one track of the Agile/XP Universe conference, in 2002. When they told me what “Agile” was, I laughed out loud: “You’re making software in Open Space!” Since then, I’ve worked as Scrum Master and Agile Coach, contributed to a number of Agile practice innovations, and helped develop approaches for enterprise agility.  Most recently, I’ve been exploring ways to invite and support civic/community agility.

I’ve contributed to the development of the Open Space Agility, OpenXP, BOSSA Nova, and Enterprise Scrum approaches to business agility. I’ve been certified as an Enterprise Scrum coach and trainer, AgilityHealth Enterprise Business Agility Strategist, an ICAgile Certified Professional, and a Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Professional.


After completely refinishing a classic Chicago bungalow, doing much of the work myself, my wife and I have escaped to the foothills of Boise, Idaho. We enjoy hiking, skiing, biking, floating, and other excuses to be outside. I’ve never owned a suitcase with wheels; all my bags have shoulder straps! And so, the journey continues…

Let’s talk about where you’re going now – and how we can get you there faster and easier.