How did I come to help people build better organizations?
My work grew out of curiosity and a strong sense that we can be and do better. For ourselves. For others. For our organizations. For our planet.
As a young adventurer, exploring life, relationships and cultures, I:
Researched the Shaker movement and Existentialism as a philosophy major in college.
Explored the backcountry of the US – especially Alaska – and the Yukon Territories of Canada, doing manual labor like working in fish factories.
Journeyed over land for 3 months from Bangkok, though Laos, to Hanoi.
Went to Japan to study Zen and martial arts; arriving with a few hundred dollars and a backpack, I made a life there for 6 years by playing in a traditional Irish band. (The Japanese loved it.)
Hitchhiked Europe with a guitar and a backpack.
Drove across Cuba with an American newspaper editor and two Cubans, having adventures involving rum and art.
These experiences made culture visible to me. I understood in a profound and direct way that there are a wide variety of ways to live and work.
The corporate world provided insights into what was effective – and what wasn’t – in work cultures, as I:
Led creative teams as design director at the SF Examiner, taking it through a complete re-design and re-launch, and early digital presences for MSNBC, Newsweek, Discovery, Elance, and others.
Became expert in agile software development and lean theory as product leader for Silicon Valley startups.
Traveled the world as an Agile Coach, specializing in enterprise-level Agile transformations.
In organizations all over the world, I saw people and organizations fall far short of their potential. I saw bad behavior toward customers and employees. I realized that often bad behavior is unintentional – it is driven by organizational structures and habits and communication patterns.
Driven by a desire to learn how organizations can better serve all stakeholders, I became one of the first people in the world to earn an MBA in Sustainable Management, studying systems thinking, ecological and social responsibility, and learning sustainable practices to build organizations that deliver value and financial performance. I also earned a certificate in Positive Psychology, focusing on what gives our lives meaning and helps us thrive as individuals and communities.
Being one of the earliest expert practitioners of Agile led me to write the bestselling book Agile Business: A Leader's Guide to Harnessing Complexity.