Blue sky thinkers

A guide to the world’s most influential strategic thinkers. By Sue Weekes

Lynda Gratton

Nationality: British.

Occupation: Associate professor of organisational behaviour at London
Business School and dean of the full-time MBA programme

Claim to fame: A driving force behind The Leading Edge Research
Consortium, which examines how business strategy is developed through people,
chronicling a number of companies in detail over the past 10 years. Her book
Living Strategy: Putting People at the Heart of Corporate Purpose is currently
one of the top-selling HR books in the world

Key messages: Real strategic HR is about developing ways of putting
people where they belong – at the centre of the business, not on the sidelines.
The notion that people are our greatest asset is a truism, not a cliché

Buzzwords: ‘People search for meaning in their work’ and ‘People have
soul, they like to get excited about what they do’

Real world experience: A trained psychologist, she worked for British
Airways for several years as an occupational psychologist. Prior to joining
London Business School she was director of HR strategy at PA Consulting. She
serves on the board of the American HR Planning Society, and conducts CEO, CIO
and HR director workshops in the UK and in the US

Read: Results from the Leading Edge Consortium can be read in
Strategic Human Resource Management: Corporate Rhetoric and Human reality and
Living Strategy: putting people at the heart of corporate purpose

Henry Mintzberg

Nationality: Canadian

Occupation: Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies, McGill
University, Montreal; visiting scholar at INSEAD in France.

Claim to fame: Synonymous with strategic management since his 1994
book The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, that says strategy cannot be
planned because planning is about analysis and strategy about synthesis.
Followed it up with Strategy Safari in 1998 (co-authored with Bruce Ahlstrand
and Joseph Lampel) – a ‘safari’ through the various fields of strategic
management and Strategy Process, co-authored with Sumantra Ghoshal has just
been published. Much of his work has focused on how managers rather than
business works. Has long been vocal about his dissatisfaction with management
education (particularly the MBA) and devised the ground-breaking International
Masters in Practicing Management with Jonathan Gosling of Lancaster University

Key messages: Synthesis is the key to strategy making. Management
education must be based on experience

Buzzwords: ‘Change management education’ and ‘You can’t create a
leader in a classroom’

Real world experience: Has been an academic most of his working life
after a stint in operational research at the Canadian National Railways.

Read: The aforementioned Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning and
Strategy Safari and his more recent Why I Hate Flying, a spoof on management
using the airline industry as its metaphor

David Ulrich

Nationality: American

Position: Currently doing missionary work in Quebec on on sabbatical
from University of Michigan where he is professor of business administration

Claim to fame: HR champion who has led the call for the profession to
sit up and be strategic. Consistently ranked by the likes of Business Week as
the world’s top management educator and his pragmatic but visionary views on HR
have made him a huge draw on the conference circuit. Most recently known for
developing the HR Scorecard (with fellow academics Brian Becker and Mark
Huselid), a potential Holy Grail for the profession since it aims to link the
results of HR policies to bottom line measures

Key messages: HR will be removed, outsourced and automated if it
doesn’t reinvent itself. HR must be an agent of continuous transformation

Buzzwords: ‘Boundaryless organisation’

Real world experience: Has consulted with more than half of the
Fortune 200.

Read: A New Mandate for Human Resources; Human Resource Champions:
The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results; and The HR Scorecard:
Linking People, Strategy and Performance

Chris Argyris

Nationality: American

Position: The James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and
Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School and director of the Monitor

Claim to fame: The father of the learning organisation even though
it’s MIT’s Peter Senge whose theories surrounding it have become more popular
in the mainstream. Argyris’ attention to how people think and act has led to
some of the most pointed work on organisational behaviour. In his seminal 1974
book Theory in Practice, written with Donald Schon, they highlight the split
between theory and action, asserting that people have ‘mental maps’ that guide
their actions rather than adhere to the theories they espouse. Over the past
decade has been developing a theory of individual and organisational learning
in which human reasoning rather than just behaviour become the basis for
diagnosis and action

Key messages: People want to be fulfilled. People’s actions are not
necessarily in keeping with what they espouse.

Buzzwords: ‘Mental maps’, ‘Theories of action’ and ‘Espoused theory’

Real world experience: Director of the Monitor Group, consults with

Read: Theory in Practice, Organisational learning; Organisational
Learning II; and Flawed Advice and The Management Trap, Knowledge for Action.

Mark Huselid

Nationality: American

Claim to fame: Co-wrote The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy
and Performance with David Ulrich and Brian Becker. Extensive research and
consulting activities on the subject of HR strategy and company performance and
has published a number of articles covering such topics. Serves on the board of
directors of the SHRM

Key messages: Line and HR managers must shift their focus from being
a cost to be minimised and embrace the idea that investments in human capital
can reap shareholder value, but to manage it effectively, HR must create a
‘high performance work system’

Buzzwords: ‘Strategic alignment’

Real world experience: Consulting activities with a range of
corporates including Bank of America, Coopers & Lybrand, Coca Cola, Hewlett
Packard and Merrill Lynch

Read: The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy and Performance.

Sumantra Ghoshal

Nationality: Indian

Position: Professor strategic leadership at London Business School.

Claim to fame: His work with Charles Bartlett and specifically their 1989
book Managing Across Borders: The Transnational Solution, which looks at how organisations
confront many global strategic issues, has made him one of the top management
thinkers and earned him the title of ‘Euroguru’ from the Economist. Experience
outside Europe as founding dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad
and former lecturer at INSEAD in France and MIT’s Sloan School of Management in
the US, have made him one of the most influential cross-border academics of the
moment. Recently collaborated on with Mintzberg on the book Strategy Process,
but is also known for his views on knowledge management, which he believes
companies have, overall, failed to capitalise on

Key messages: Human capital is not merely the knowledge, skills and
experience of individuals in the workforce but is also intrinsically linked
with their networks and relationships and their ability and willingness to act

Buzzwords: ‘Social and emotional capital’

Real world experience: Consultant to several large US and European

Read: Managing Across Borders: The Transnational Solution and The Individualized
Corporation, Strategy Process.

Tom Peters

Nationality: American

Claim to fame: An instant guru after publication of his book In
Search of Excellence (1982), which was acclaimed as one of the best business
books of all time. Placed himself firmly in the HR arena when he said in an
article in Fortune in 1996 that the profession seemed either unable or
unwilling to rid itself of its bureaucratic image. He went as far as to say
that it should be abolished because it often impeded positive change within an
organisation. His 1999 books The Brand You50, The Project50 and The
Professional Service Firm50 seek to reinvent work for the individual and the
company and in 2001 he launched the first of his electronic Manifestos in the
‘Brawl with No Rules Series’, details of which can be found at

Key messages: That it will take major re-engineering to transform HR
– in Peters’ words, on the scale of "demolition and salvage"

Buzzwords: ‘Admintrivia’, ‘WOW! Work’, ‘Distinct or extinct’

Real world experience: Served in Vietnam; senior White House drug
abuse adviser in 1973-74 and worked at business consultants McKinsey & Co
from 1974 to 1981, becoming a partner in 1979

Read: In Search of Excellence; Liberation Management; and The Pursuit
of WOW!


Lynda Gratton

Henry Mintzberg

David Ulrich

Chris Argyris

Mark Huselid

Sumantra Ghoshal

Tom Peters

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