Michael Herman

I was still in my twenties when I left the safety of the “good job” in search of better ways to do leadership and organization. Why can’t work be more of an expedition?

Just two years out of a top business school, I resigned my position as a financial analyst and project manager to spend the summer as an Outward Bound instructor in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. After that, I churned through a series of business names and projects, working with clients and partners around the world.

When people asked me at parties, “So what do you do?” I often said (somewhat sheepishly, at first), “I make it up as I go.” I still say that today – but now there’s an abundance of research and practice that shows the value of an agile, adaptive, self-organizing, expeditionary learning approach.

Finding practical and profitable ways forward in complex and chaotic situations – this is what I’ve learned to do and love to teach. Sometimes people call me a process designer, meeting facilitator, management consultant and/or enterprise coach.

What looked crazy 30 years ago at the trailhead, has become a valid career track in today’s economy – and worked out well for me, in hindsight! The sections below offer some highlights from my journey.

A Quick History

  • 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 successful start-up of new agile teams.
  • Served as interim manager, classroom trainer, workplace mediator, conference presenter, and business agility coach.
  • Worked with leaders of start-ups, small community organizations, large global companies, and everything between – on six continents.
  • Authored and edited a number of guides and papers on Agile and Open Space, see Publications

Some Clients and Contributions

  • Introduced the Agile movement to Open Space, facilitated Agile Alliance Board meetings, contributed to global Agile practice innovation and to five different books on Agile practice.
  • Served as Scrum Master, Agile Coach and/or Trainer to numerous new Scrum software development teams, pioneered the use of Enterprise Scrum with single teams.
  • Willis Towers Watson – employee involvement specialist, designed tools for increasing engagement, coached internal agile transformation, designed/facilitated events.
  • City of Albuquerque, Economic Development – pioneered the use of the Enterprise Scrum framework for business agility in city government.
  • USAID-Indonesia – managed summit to identify strategic issues, set priorities and strengthen working relationships for USAID programs in Indonesia, three days/200+ stakeholders.
  • South African Breweries, Ltd – managed annual senior executive forum for highest-level strategic planning and urgent response to major market shifts, three days/140 leaders.
  • United Airlines – co-developed new leadership and planning processes for IT infrastructure.
  • MIATCO (Mid-America International Agri-Trade Council) – interim/turnaround manager for export assistance program, cleared nine-month backlog in annual program, served as product owner for digitization of entire program, trained new permanent manager.
  • Nepal National Network – supported over three years, the organization of a national peaceful development summit during Nepal’s ten-year civil war, 4 days/100+ collaborators.
  • Peoria School District – managed community summit on future of education in Peoria, to identify issues and set strategic priorities for new leaders, three days/300+ stakeholders.
  • Chicago Community Trust – managed summit on the future of food security in Illinois, to initiate Chicago policy council and other projects statewide, three days/200+ leaders.
  • Fairbanks Alaska, facilitated Becoming Peacemakers conference and training for 250 youth and adult mediators.
  • University of Minnesota Medical Center – co-developed strategy for reorganizing 22 laboratories into four super-labs, to gain cross-staffing efficiencies and other cost savings.
  • Facilitator Training – organized and delivered Open Space Technology training programs in the United States, Ireland, India, Nepal, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada.
  • Teambuilding and Leadership Programs – New York City Outward Bound Center, Arthur Andersen professional development center, University of Chicago (Booth School of Business), Wharton School of Business, and Yale School of Management.

Schools and Teachers

  • MBA University of Chicago (Finance/Healthcare Administration)
  • BA Indiana University (Economics)
  • Enterprise Scrum Inc. Certified Business Agility and Software Scaling Coach and Trainer
  • Scrum Alliance, Certified Scrum Professional and Certified Scrum Master (CSM, CSP)
  • AgilityHealth® Enterprise Business Agility Strategist (EBAS)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional – Business Agility Foundations (ICP-BAF)
  • Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance, Business Agility Institute, and multiple local practice groups
  • New Mexico State University (participative work redesign)
  • High Performance Systems (systems thinking, mapping, modeling, simulation)
  • Center for Conflict Resolution (dispute mediation)
  • National Training Labs (human interaction and leadership)
  • Open Space Technology, with Harrison Owen
  • Zapchen Somatics, with Juile Henderson
  • Meditation, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan masters
  • Vipassana Meditation with S.N. Goenka

Expeditionary Learning

Colorado Outward Bound, 1986
  • Sailing two Chicago-to-Mackinac races (333-miles)
  • Colorado Outward Bound School (winter mountaineering)
  • Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (sea kayaking)
  • Paddling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota
  • Rebuilding a classic Chicago bungalow
  • Retreating, teaching and trekking in Nepal
  • White water canoeing on the Rio Grande River
  • Winter mountaineering, Leadville, Colorado (solo)
  • Alaskan backcountry by snowmachine (solo)
  • Seven months living and working in a London meditation center
  • St. Louis to New Orleans by tow boat (pushing 30 barges)
  • Backcountry hiking in Mexico’s Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon)
  • Backcountry solo hiking in Glacier NP, Isle Royale NP, and Bryce Canyon NP
  • Running three marathons

After 40 years in Chicago, my wife and I have relocated to Boise, Idaho, where we enjoy any excuse to be outside.