The outstanding names in the field of Change Management whose work has been and continues to be widely quoted  – all have drawn primarily on case studies largely connected with their own consulting practices. These ‘change gurus’ are John Kotter, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Warren Bennis, Chris Argyris, Charles Handy, Ed Schein and Andrew Pettigrew.

All have advanced the field substantially with detailed qualitative analyses of successful and unsuccessful change programs. From reflection on their extensive experience with organizational change, they have developed descriptive schemas to describe key phases in corporate change and prescriptive formulae for effectively managing these stages. We should be grateful to all – there are others

John Kotter

Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change.  His is the premier voice on how the best organizations actually “do” change.

In his newest work, A Sense of Urgency, Kotter shows what a true sense of urgency in an organization really is, why it is becoming an exceptionally important asset, and how it can be created and sustained within organizations.

John Kotter’s international bestseller Leading Change—which outlined an actionable, eight-step process for implementing successful transformations—has become the change bible for managers around the world

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. Her strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide for over 25 years, through teaching, writing, and direct consultation to major corporations and governments. The former Editor of Harvard Business Review (1989-1992), Professor Kanter has been named to lists of the “50 most powerful women in the world” (Times of London), and the “50 most influential business thinkers in the world” (Accenture and Thinkers 50 research). In 2001, she received the Academy of Management’s Distinguished Career Award for her scholarly contributions to management knowledge, and in 2002 was named “Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year” by the World Teleport Association.

Professor Kanter is the author or co-author of 17 books, which have been translated into 17 languages.  Her recent book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End (a New York Times business and #1 Business Week bestseller), describes the culture and dynamics of high-performance organizations as compared with those in decline, and shows how to lead turnarounds, whether in businesses, hospitals, schools, sports teams, community organizations, or countries.

Warren Bennis,

Warren Bennis (born 1925) is a laid-back silver-haired professor at the University of Southern California who has been an influential authority on leadership for decades. He has been consulted on the subject by at least four American presidents and by some of the best-known occupants of corporate boardrooms around the world.

His fundamental tenet is that leaders are made, not born. The worst problem they can face, says Bennis, is “early success. There’s no opportunity to learn from adversity and problems”. Other myths about leadership that he dismisses are that it is a rare skill; that leaders are charismatic (most of them are quite ordinary people); and that leaders control and manipulate (they do not; they align the energies of others behind an attractive goal).

Being a leader is very different from being a manager, says Bennis. So being a manager in an organisation is not necessarily the best training for being the leader of that organisation. But it is the only training that most CEOs get for the job. Managers, however, can learn to be leaders. “I believe in ‘possible selves’,” Bennis has written, “the capacity to adapt and change.”

“I think a lot of the leaders I’ve spoken to give expression to their feminine side. Many male leaders are almost bisexual in their ability to be open and reflective…Gender is not the determining factor.”

In “Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge”, Bennis lists four competencies that leaders need to develop:

• forming a vision which provides people with a bridge to the future;

• giving meaning to that vision through communication;

• building trust, “the lubrication that makes it possible for organisations to work”;

• searching for self-knowledge and self-regard.

Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris  is an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a Thought Leader at Monitor Group. He is commonly known for seminal work in the area of “Learning Organizations”.

Action Science, one of Argyris’ collaborative works with Robert Putnam and Diana McLain Smith, developed together with Donald Schön as well, advocates an approach to research that focuses on generating knowledge that is useful in solving practical problems. Other key concepts developed by Argyris include Ladder of Inference, Double-Loop Learning, Theory of Action/Espoused Theory/Theory-in-use, High Advocacy/High Inquiry dialogue and Actionable Knowledge.

Chris Argyris’ early research explored the impact of formal organizational structures, control systems and management on individuals and how they responded and adapted to them. This research resulted in the books Personality and Organization, 1957 and Integrating the Individual and the Organization, 1964. He then shifted his focus to organizational change, in particular exploring the behaviour of senior executives in organizations (Interpersonal Competence and Organizational Effectiveness, 1962; Organization and Innovation, 1965).

From there he moved onto an inquiry into the role of the social scientist as both researcher and actor (Intervention Theory and Method, 1970; Inner Contradictions of Rigorous Research, 1980 and Action Science, 1985 – with Robert Putnam and Diana McLain Smith). His fourth major area of research and theorizing – in significant part undertaken with Donald Schön – was in individual and organizational learning and the extent to which human reasoning, not just behavior, can become the basis for diagnosis and action (Theory in Practice, 1974 ; Organizational Learning, 1978; Organizational Learning II, 1996 – all with Donald Schön). He has also developed this thinking in Overcoming Organizational Defenses, 1990 and Knowledge for Action, 1993.

Charles Handy

Charles Handy (born 1932) is the son of an Irish Protestant vicar whose broad interests spread from religion and philosophy to the organisation of the workplace. In “The Gods of Management” he identified four different management cultures which he likened to four Greek gods: Apollo, Athena, Dionysus and Zeus. His vivid use of metaphor and his accessible writing style have made his books extremely popular. It was once said of Peter Drucker ( that he was a man “practising the scholarship of common sense”. Charles Handy added “I would like that to be said of me.”

Handy began his career as an employee of Royal Dutch Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil company, and was sent to work on a drilling operation in the jungles of Borneo, where he made mistakes and was given (as he put it) a chance to redeem himself. He later vividly described how little relation his life on the job had to the goal he had been given by corporate headquarters—namely, to maximise the company’s return on equity. Handy’s subsequent written work has almost always been a search for ways in which companies can go beyond the pure pursuit of profit. How can they be transformed into communities and soar above being mere properties to be bought and sold?

Based for most of his working life in Britain, Handy became the UK’s leading management spokesperson. He came up with catchy concepts such as “the shamrock organisation” (which, like the eponymous plant, has three leaves: management; specialists; and an increasingly flexible labour force) and “portfolio working”, a lifestyle in which the individual holds a number of “jobs, clients and types of work” all at the same time.

Handy’s main interest was organisations, and his message was that they are “not machines that can be neatly designed, mapped, measured and controlled”. He once used his experience of moving his kitchen seven times within the same house as a lesson to managers who try to fit “a modern organisation into old-fashioned spaces”.

“I told my children when they were leaving education that they would be well advised to look for customers not bosses.”

He had a key role in shaping British management education in the 1960s and 1970s. After a year in Boston observing MIT’s way of teaching business, he returned to Britain, a country that had no management education other than the ersatz activities that then passed for it—an accountancy training or a spell in the British army. On his return he helped set up London Business School, drawing heavily on educational programmes (the MBA in particular) that he had much admired in America.

Later on he seemed to have some regrets about this. While accountants were not trained to be managers, he wrote in “Myself and Other More Important Matters”, “the way they and their kindred professions of law, medicine and architecture had been educating their future professionals did seem to have stood the test of time. They all consistently mixed formal learning with some form of apprenticeship.” As The Economist once said of Handy  “More common sense is what he stands for, and fewer common rooms.”

Notable publications

“The Empty Raincoat”, Hutchinson, 1994

“The Gods of Management”, Pan, 1985; new edn, Arrow, 1995

“The Age of Unreason”, Hutchinson Business, 1989; 2nd edn, Arrow, 1995

“Myself and Other More Important Matters”, Heinemann, 2006

Ed Schein

Ed Schein was educated at the University of Chicago, at Stanford University where he received a Masters Degree in Psychology in 1949, and at Harvard University where he received his Ph.D. in social psychology in 1952. He was Chief of the Social Psychology Section of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research while serving in the U.S. Army as Captain from 1952 to 1956. He joined MIT’s Sloan School of Management in 1956 and was made a Professor of Organizational Psychology and Management in 1964.

From 1968 to 1971 Schein was the Undergraduate Planning Professor for MIT, and in 1972 he became the Chairman of the Organization Studies Group of the MIT Sloan School, a position he held until 1982. He was honored in 1978 when he was named the Sloan Fellows Professor of Management, a Chair he held until 1990.

At the present he is Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and continues at the Sloan School part time as a Senior Lecturer. He is also the Founding Editor of “Reflections” the Journal of the Society for Organizational Learning devoted to connecting academics, consultants, and practitioners around the issues of knowledge creation, dissemination and utilization.

Schein has been a prolific researcher, writer, teacher and consultant. Besides his numerous articles in professional journals he has authored fourteen books including Organizational Psychology (3d edit., 1980), Career Dynamics (1978), Organizational Culture and Leadership (1985, 1992, 2004), and Process Consultation Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (1969, 1987, 1988), Process Consultation Revisited (1999), and The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (1999).

Andrew Pettigrew

Andrew Pettigrew OBE is Professor of Strategy and Organisation at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. A British professor, he was formerly dean of the University of Bath School of Management. He received his training in sociology and anthropology at Liverpool University and received his Ph.D from Manchester Business School in 1970. He has held academic appointments at Yale University, Harvard University London Business School and Warwick Business School.

Pettigrew has published many academic papers and books that consider the human, political, and social aspects of organisations and their strategies in contrast to the purely economic view in which the main unit of analysis is the firm or industry as typified by Michael Porter. This is known as the strategy process school as opposed to the strategy content school.

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.[1]

Despite his intellectual preference for fewer distinctions between content, process, and context, he still tends to be viewed as a researcher in the process tradition simply because it, as he, is interested in more than static decisions. He argues (2003b) that:

  • The link between formulation and implementation is not unilinear but interrelated time
  • Understanding the change associated with strategy requires understanding of continuity over time
  • Strategy, and its impact on future outcomes, are shaped by power and politics

This view of strategy requires the strategy researcher to be historian, anthropologist, and political analyst.

Pettigrew, AM, Strategy as Process, Power, and Change, in Cummings, S, & Wilson, D, (2003b), Images of Strategy, Blackwell Publishing, pp. 301-330

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