Kanter, Rosabeth Moss 1943-
KANTER, Rosabeth Moss 1943-
PERSONAL: Born March 15, 1943, in Cleveland, OH; daughter of Nelson Nathan (an attorney) and Helen (a teacher; maiden name, Smolen) Moss; married Stuart A. Kanter, June 15, 1963 (died March 24, 1969); married Barry A. Stein (a management consultant), July 2, 1972; children: Matthew Moss Kanter Stein. Education: Attended University of Chicago, 1962–63; Bryn Mawr College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1964; University of Michigan, M.A., 1965, Ph.D., 1967; post-doctoral study at Harvard University, 1975–76.
ADDRESSES: Home—Cambridge and Edgartown, MA. Office—Harvard Business School, Graduate School of Business Administration, Soldiers Field Rd., Boston, MA 02163.
CAREER: Writer, educator, sociologist, and business consultant. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, instructor in sociology, 1967; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, assistant professor of sociology, 1967–73; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, associate professor of administration, 1973–74; Brandeis University, associate professor of sociology, 1974–77; Yale University, New Haven, CT, associate professor, 1977–78, professor of sociology, 1978–86, chair of department, 1982, chair of University Council on Priorities and Planning, 1982–83; Harvard University Business School, Cambridge, professor, 1986–2000, Ernest L. Arbuckle professor of business administration, 2000–. Visiting scholar at Newberry Library, 1973, and Harvard University, 1975–, and Norwegian Research Council on Science and Humanities, 1980; faculty member at Young President's Organization of International University, Hong Kong, 1976; Sigma Chi scholar-in-residence, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 1978; visiting professor of organizational psychology and management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 1979–80. Goodmeasure, Inc., Cambridge, MA, founding partner, 1977–, former chair of the board. director, American Center for Quality of Work Life, 1978–82, Educational Fund for Individual Rights, 1979–84, and National Organization for Women, Legal Defense and Education Fund, 1979–86, 1993–95; member of board of directors of New Democracy, Washington, DC, 1985–88, American Production and Quality Center, Houston, TX, 1989, Economic Policy Institute, 1994, Alliance for the Commonwealth, 1995, and City Year (national urban youth service corps), 1995–. Massachusetts Governor's Economic Council, former co-chair of International Trade Task Force, 1986–95; co-chair of the Youth Service Advisory Board for Colin Powell's America's Promise. Member of the board of overseers of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1994. Trustee, American Leadership Forum, Houston, TX, 1981–; and College Retirement Equities Fund, 1985–89. Incorporater, Babson College, 1984–87, Boston Children's Museum, 1984, and Mt. Auburn Hospital, 1991. Member of planning task force of Cambridge Institute's New City Project, 1969–71; President's Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, member of work group on entrepreneurship, 1984. Consultant to Russell Sage Foundation, Ford Foundation, and U.S. Department of State. Judge for the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership.
MEMBER: International Association of Applied Social Scientists, International Women's Forum Council on Foreign Relations, World Productivity Congress, World Economic Forum (fellow), Academy of Management, American Association for Higher Education, American Society of Quality and Participation, Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, American Sociological Association (member of executive council, 1982–85), American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Legal Studies Association, National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Science (dean, 1973–), Society for the Study of Social Problems, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Sociologists for Women in Society, Law and Society Association, Eastern Sociological Society (member of executive committee, 1975–78), Committee of 200 (founding member, 1982), Yale Club (New York, NY, and New Haven, CT).
AWARDS, HONORS: U.S. Office of Education grant, 1969–72; National Institute of Mental Health grant, 1973–74; Guggenheim fellowship, 1975–76; C. Wright Mills Award of 1977, 1978, for Men and Women of the Corporation; I. Peter Gellman Award, Eastern Sociological Society, 1978; William F. Donner Foundation grant, 1979–80; McKinsey Award, 1979, for article "Power Failure in Management Circuits,"; Athena Award, Intercollegiate Association of Women Students, 1980; Professional Woman of the Year award, International Association of Personnel Women, 1981; Woman of the Year award, New England Women Business Owners Association, 1981; award for best article, Hospital Forum, 1982; Russell Sage Foundation grant, 1983–84; Gold Medal, Big Sisters Association of Greater Boston, 1985; named to Cleveland Heights High School Hall of Fame, 1986, Working Woman Hall of Fame, AT&T and Working Woman magazine, 1986, and Ohio Women's Hall of Fame, 1990; Women Who Make a Difference award, International Women's Forum, 1988; Richard M. Cyert award for professional excellence, Carnegie-Mellon University Graduate School of Industrial Administration, 1989; Project Equality award, 1990; Crohn's and Colitis Foundation awards, 1993, 1994; distinguished scholar award, Academy of Management, 1994; McFeeley award, YMCA, 1995; leadership award, New England Council, 1995; Johnson, Smith & Knisely Award for New Perspectives on Executive Leadership, for When Giants Learn to Dance. Honorary degrees from Yale University, 1978, Bucknell University, 1980, Antioch University, 1984, Westminster College, 1984, Babson College, 1984, Harvard University, 1986, Bryant College, 1986, Suffolk University, 1987, North Adams State College, 1987, Union College, 1987, Regis College, 1987, Colby-Sawyer College, 1988, University of New Haven, 1989, Bentley College, 1990, Florida International University, 1990, State University of New York Institute of Technology, 1991, Dowling College, 1991, Claremont College, 1992, Monmouth College, 1994, and University of Massachusetts, Boston, 1996. Named one of the hundred most important women in America by the Ladies Home Journal, one of the fifty most powerfully women in the world by Forbes, and one of the fifty most powerful women in the world by the London Times.
Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective, Harvard University Press (Boston, MA), 1972.
(Editor and contributor) Communes: Creating and Managing the Collective Life, Harper (New York, NY), 1973.
(Editor, with Marcus Millman, and contributor) Another Voice: Feminist Perspectives on Social Life and Social Science, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1975.
Work and Family in the United States: A Critical Review and Research and Policy Agenda, Russell Sage Foundation (Washington, DC), 1976.
Men and Women of the Corporation, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1977.
(Editor) Life in Organizations, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1979.
A Tale of "O", Harper (New York, NY), 1980.
The Change Masters: Innovation for Productivity in the American Corporation, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Michael S. Dukakis) Creating the Future: The Massachusetts Comeback and Its Promise for America, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1988.
When Giants Learn to Dance: Mastering the Challenge of Strategy, Management, and Careers in the 1990s, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
(Compiler with Barry A. Stein and Todd D. Jick) The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience It and Leaders Guide It, Free Press (New York, NY), 1992.
World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor, with John Kao and Fred Wiersema) Innovation: Breakthrough Ideas at 3M, DuPont, GE, Pfizer, and Rubbermaid, HarperBusiness (New York, NY), 1997.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 1997.
Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 2001.
Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, Crown Business (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to books, including Internal Labor Markets, edited by P. Osterman, MIT Press, 1984; New Futures: The Challenge of Transition Management, edited by J. Kimberly and R. Quinn, Irwin-Dorsey, 1984; and Handbook of Nonprofit Organizations, edited by W. Powell and P. DiMaggion, Yale University Press, 1985. Contributor of articles and reviews to business, sociology, education, psychology, and psychiatry journals. Associate editor, Sociological Symposium, 1972–76, Sociological Inquiry, 1973–76, and American Sociological Review, 1978–81; editor, Harvard Business Review, 1989–92. Member of editorial boards of Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 1970–73, "Rose Monograph Series," American Sociological Association, 1973–76, American Sociologist, 1976–78, Administrative Science Quarterly, 1979–82, Human Resource Management, 1982–, and Organizational Dynamics, 1983–. Consulting editor, Journal of Voluntary Action Research, 1972–76, and American Journal of Sociology, 1975–77; contributing editor, Working Papers for a New Society, 1977–80.
SIDELIGHTS: Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a sociologist, professor, internationally recognized business leader, and author. As a speaker, she has addressed conventions and trade and civic groups across the United States and in more than twenty countries. As a consultant, she has served clients that include Bell Atlantic, General Electric, IBM, and Volvo, as well as U.S. agencies and foreign governments. She has had a leadership role in dozens of initiatives and served as editor of the Harvard Business Review and on the editorial boards of other well-regarded publications.
"All her adult life, Kanter, a highly respected management consultant, has studied that traditionally amorphous institution, the corporation, trying to understand it, to explain it, and, ultimately, to make it a better place for everyone," wrote Carol Kleiman in the Chicago Tribune. Kanter's The Change Masters: Innovation for Productivity in the American Corporation is "an effort to discover why some firms succeed in maintaining innovation and growth while others retard individual initiative." Tom Redburn, writing in the Los Angeles Times, said that the book "provides some of the most revealing glimpses into the day-to-day workings of several successful companies." "To the layman," stated Anatole Broyard in the New York Times, "The Change Masters explains a great deal and does it very persuasively." He added, "Though Miss Kanter sometimes uses the word innovation as if it were a mantra, it may well be."
Kanter's main point, in both her work as a consultant and her writings, is that most corporate structures impede communication between upper echelon executives and workers. Workers feel cut off from decision-making and problem solving. Believing they are powerless, they end up as either "movers," those obviously slated for promotion to positions of increasing power, or "stuck" workers, who continue to perform (often less and less productively) but realize the future holds no more than an automatic raise every twelve months. Management, while wielding power in the eyes of the workers, actually is caught in the middle. Managers are in the position of passing along information and enforcing decisions with which they had little or nothing to do. They appear powerful but usually do not know what the future holds. Kanter told Kleiman that "to her, the ideal corporate state is one in which executives in lofty positions get to know their employees, where they can relax and communicate with them—and where employees can do the same. 'We are all people,' says Kanter, 'people of the organization.'" The author explained, "I realized very early in college that corporations are among the most powerful entities in society, and if you care about how the world is run, you have to find out about them. My interest has always been in how a complex world is put together."
Kanter's earliest books are an examination of communal dynamics, while her later volumes take into account technology and the global economy. John Kay reviewed World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy in Management Today. Kay wrote that "the true substance of the book is a sober perspective on how superficial is the impact of internationalization on American life." Kay further noted that for many of Kanter's interviewees, who hail from small communities, "integration into the world economy has not gone much beyond the discovery that foreigners are not an alien species, and sometimes not as far as that: 'We're building a new Kroger's supermarket with Japanese signs, because Honda was coming.'" As Kanter points out, boundaries are still there—most foreign companies maintain their offices in their home countries, and the few transnational companies tend to be American companies with European operations. "Almost every page displays this tension between the rhetoric of globalization and the reality of substantial cultural differences," wrote Kay.
As an editor, Kanter has also worked to present practical business advice as well as insights into the functioning of successful corporations. Innovation: Breakthrough Thinking at 3M, DuPont, GE, Pfizer, and Rubbermaid, edited with John Kao and Fred Wiersema, provides detailed examinations of the process of innovation and new product development at five of the largest companies in the United States. The theme the editors emphasize is that "coming up with good new ideas is easy. Doing something useful with them is the hard part," as Robert L. Scheier noted in Computerworld. "As the case studies make clear, innovation is a slow, painful process," Scheier continued. It takes thousands of raw ideas to generate even a handful of viable projects—and from those few projects, only one successful new product may emerge. The editors and contributors stress that innovation is not a neat, linear process, and that innovation often happens at the fringes of the corporate culture, far away from the operational mainstream. For that reason, it is important for innovators to be rewarded for their efforts and shielded from the sometimes crushing criticism and simple disdain that can emanate from other sections of the company and which can poison creativity and suffocate innovative work. A key skill of innovative managers is their ability to recognize a hopeless project; they also need to use diplomacy to terminate the project without destroying the morale of the employees who have devoted months, maybe years of work to it. Booklist critic Mary Whaley stated, "The editors tell us that arrogance is the major enemy of innovation," and caution that too much team structure can stifle innovation and original thinking. A reviewer for Report on Business Magazine commented that "this savvy collection of company accounts does illustrate that innovation requires continuous appraisal and steady, sometimes costly, nurturing and support."
Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management is a collection of her articles taken from the Harvard Business Review over fifteen years. They cover her familiar subjects of community responsibility, strategic alliances, innovation, and customer empowerment. Tim Dickson, who reviewed the book for Strategy & Business online, called Kanter "one of America's best-known management thinkers" and noted that in spite of her accomplishments, Kanter "is most unguru-like in her modesty, approachability, and charm." Dickson wrote that Kanter has "a rare ability to champion the cause of the manager at the sharp end of business while rightly retaining her academic detachment. She revels in the detail of case studies and nitty-gritty examples, yet never loses the bigger picture."
Strategy & Business interviewer Joel Kurtzman remarked, "In a way, Professor Kanter is now returning to her roots as a sociologist. Recently, she wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review on change and innovation. In the article she looked at the examples of certain social agencies as beta sites for corporate change." Kanter speaks of "thinking globally" and the Internet as a force in connectivity. She also stresses the importance of developing a company culture that reaches out beyond the local market. "What I'm trying to convey," Kanter told Kurtzman, "is that your global strategies must take account of differences in the various countries where your company operates, and then, with that knowledge, you must build local country relationships that are strong and deep so that you're seen as being an insider wherever you are. You will be constantly balancing your need for uniformity with the acknowledgment of differences. That is one of the big challenges companies have, both in terms of their strategy and management of people."
Kanter's theme of Internet-based business is the topic of Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow. In this work, the author draws on anecdotal information from companies such as eBay, but her opinion that shares of online companies that experience little or no profit will continue to enjoy high valuations has been disproved by the drop in these stocks after the book was published. Kanter advises managers who rely on the Web and notes how technology will transform the way in which we work. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Kanter "argues convincingly that the biggest obstacles to change are management and employee attitudes, not the technological tools they employ."
In Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End Kanter "dissects the anatomy of winning and losing streaks in organizations," observed Carol J. Elsen in the Library Journal. Drawing on more than three hundred interviews with prominent business leaders, politicians, and sports teams at the high school, college, and professional level, Kanter analyzes how organizational structure helps build confidence and create an atmosphere in which winning will become prominent. Bad habits, negative attitudes, and lack of discipline lead to losing, while positive mind-sets, constructive reactions to setbacks, and determination help forge winners. "On the way up, success creates a positive momentum," observed James Nelson in New Zealand Management. "People who believe they can win are also likely to put in the extra effort at difficult moments to help ensure a positive result. On the way down, failure feeds on itself," Nelson continued. When winning streaks come to an end, "Panic, arrogance and neglect of systems can lead to a horror scenario where managers retreat to their own turf and stop sharing knowledge, where systems crumble, communication decreases, a blame culture takes a foothold, talented people leave and confidence evaporates," commented a reviewer in Management Today. For those organizations caught in a perpetual cycle of losing, turnarounds are possible, but require strong leadership and the cultivation of accountability, collaboration, and initiative. It is important to remember, Nelson noted, that "a loss is a crossroads, not a cliff." Ultimately, "who believe they can win will win; those who believe they can't win won't," Elsen remarked. Kanter "delivers valuable insights on the importance of confidence to success and on how organizations can create practices that build that much needed asset," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. "Confidence," concluded Barbara Kiviat in Time, "apparently, often starts with bold action."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1989, review of When Giants Learn to Dance: Mastering the Challenge of Strategy, Management, and Careers in the 1990s, p. 1052; September 1, 1995, review of World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy, p. 22; July, 1997, Mary Whaley, review of Innovation: Breakthrough Thinking at 3M, DuPont, GE, Pfizer, and Rubbermaid, p. 1783; September 1, 1997, Mary Whaley, review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management, p. 43; November 1, 1998, review of The Change Masters: Innovation for Productivity in the American Corporation, p. 474; February 15, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow, p. 1103; September 15, 2004, David Siegfried, review of Confidence: How Winning and Losing Streaks Begin and End, p. 185.
Boston Business Journal, March 2, 2001, Tom Witkowski, "New Grammy Category?," p. 2.
Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1979, Carol Kleiman, review of The Change Masters.
Choice, March, 1996, review of World Class, p. 1180; January, 1998, review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management, p. 865.
Christian Science Monitor, December 28, 1995, review of World Class, p. 8.
Computerworld, August 25, 1997, Robert L. Scheier, review of Innovation, p. 82.
Contemporary Sociology, September, 1993, review of The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience It and Leaders Guide It, p. 718.
Economist, September 9, 1995, review of World Class, p. 85.
Entrepreneur, January, 1999, Scott S. Smith, "Braving the New World," interview with Rosabeth Moss Kanter, p. 131; May, 2001, Mark Henricks, review of Evolve!, p. 110.
Far Eastern Economic Review, June 27, 1996, review of World Class, p. 52.
Financial Times, November 11, 2004, Simon London, "No Cracks in Kanter's Confidence: Management Gurus: In the First of an Occasional Series on the World's Leading Thinkers, Simon London Talks to the American Grande Dame of Management Theory," interview with Rosabeth Moss Kanter, p. 12.
Fortune, November 2, 1992, review of The Challenge of Organizational Change, p. 144.
HR, September, 1997, review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management, p. 144.
Inc., July, 1998, review of Innovation, p. 119.
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, July, 1994, review of The Challenge of Organizational Change, p. 724.
Journal of Economic Literature, June, 1994, review of Men and Women of the Corporation, p. 808.
Journal of Leadership Studies, winter, 1998, David W. Britt, review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management, p. 163; summer, 2001, William C. Johnson, review of Evolve!, p. 126.
Library Journal, March 15, 1990, review of When Giants Learn to Dance, p. 43; August, 1995, review of World Class, p. 22; March 15, 1996, review of World Class, p. 40; September 1, 1997, Steven Silkunas, review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management, p. 192; September 15, 2004, Carol J. Elsen, review of Confidence, p. 67.
Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1983, Tom Redburn, review of The Change Masters.
Management Today, February, 1996, John Kay, review of World Class, p. 24; October 7, 2004, "Books: What Has Luck Got to Do with Winning?," review of Confidence, p. 38.
Miami Herald, March 12, 2001, Cara Buckley, "Author Advises Companies to Use the Internet Wisely," review of Evolve!; September 20, 2004, review of Confidence
New York Times, August 27, 1983, Anatole Broyard, review of The Change Masters.
New York Times Book Review, October 16, 1983; February 24, 1985, review of The Change Masters, p. 34; October 29, 1989, review of When Giants Learn to Dance, p. 40.
New Zealand Management, June, 2005, James Nelson, "Rosabeth Moss Kanter: What Makes Winners and Losers," review of Confidence, p. 42.
Orlando Business Journal, April 6, 2001, review of Evolve!, p. 25.
Personnel Psychology, winter, 2001, Alan Clardy, review of Evolve!, p. 1003.
Public Administration Review, November, 1994, review of The Challenge of Organizational Change, p. 577.
Publishers Weekly, July 3, 1995, review of World Class, p. 40; June 2, 1997, review of Innovation, p. 62; February 5, 2001, review of Evolve!, p. 80; July 19, 2004, review of Confidence, p. 155.
Report on Business Magazine, August, 1997, review of Innovation, p. 18.
Research-Technology Management, May, 2001, review of Evolve!, p. 61.
San Jose Mercury News, March 10, 2001, Tracy Seipel, "Harvard Professor Promotes Book on Digital-Age Business Strategy," review of Evolve!.
Signs, spring, 1988, review of Men and Women of the Corporation, p. 529.
Time, October 11, 2004, Barbara Kiviat, "You Can Do It," review of Confidence, p. A16.
Training & Development, July, 1998, Donna J. Abernathy, "A Conversation with Rosabeth Moss Kanter about Leadership," p. 44; March, 2001, review of Evolve!, p. 77.
Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1992, review of The Challenge of Organizational Change, p. A12; July 10, 1997, review of Innovation, p. A13.
Washington Business Journal, March 16, 2001, review of Evolve!, p. 34.
NewsHour Online, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ (November 1, 1995), David Gergen, "Corporate Communities," interview with Kanter.
Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, http://www.pfdf.org/ (summer, 1999), Rosabeth Moss Kanter, "The Enduring Skills of Change Leaders."
Rosabeth Moss Kanter Web site, http://www.rosabeth.com (September 12, 2001).
Strategy & Business, http://www.stragegy-business.com/ (September 12, 2001), Tim Dickson, review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management; (fall, 1999), Joel Kurtzman, "An Interview with Rosabeth Moss Kanter."