The Change Masters

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Number of pages: 436

Publisher: Free Press

BBB Library: Business Classics

ISBN: 978-0671528003

About the Author

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor of business at Harvard Business School, where she holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship. In addition she is director and chair of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative.


Editorial Review

In 1983, Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanterwrote The Change Masters, a practical book which had a major impact on the conduct of American business and management.Sheargued that American business was facing an unfavorable economic and social environment and in dire need of an American corporate Renaissance. In executive suites throughout America, The Change Masters has become one of the most talked-about books in years.

Book Reviews

"This is a very good book. It is good, because it treats an important question, because it treats it well substantively (it presents a wealth of information and ideas), and it treats it in a very readable, accessible, clear manner. Not everybody may agree with the author’s answers to the questions he raises, but one can hardly not appreciate the relevance of the questions raised and the pertinence of the alternatives put forth. For, while clearly indicating where he stands (he has the courage to state his reasoned preferences), the author is neither imposing not intolerant; he is realistic and reasons with nuances."— Sage Pub

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Wisdom to Share

Not long ago, when American companies seemed to control the world in which they operated, it was easier to ask the people within them to just fit into the “system” and to assume that the “system,” not the people, was responsible for success.

Innovations, whether in products, market strategies, technological processes, or work practices, are designed not by machines but by people.

American companies can return to economic leadership through a better use of people and the encouragement of innovation—if their leaders appreciate both the magnitude of the transformations that have taken place and the magnitude of the response that is required.

Our transforming era required not only that we change our practices in response but also that we change the way we think about what we do.

The corporations that will succeed and flourish in the times ahead will be those that have mastered the art of change: creating a climate encouraging the introduction of new procedures and new possibilities; encouraging anticipation of and response to external pressures; encouraging and listening to new ideas from inside the organization.

Those at the top with power can afford to be generous; they can easily protect those with desirable innovations from the rules of the system. But the long chain of command often means that bosses of middle managers and below feel powerless and thus need to cling to any shared control; that they feel measured by rule obedience and are therefore prone to hold others to that standard.

Innovating companies provide the freedom to act, which arouses the desire to act. The way innovating companies are designed leaves ambiguities, overlaps, decision conflicts, or decision vacuum in some parts of the organization.

Organizational power tools consist of supplies of three “basic commodities” that can be invested in action: information, resources, and support.

The first step in change mastery is understanding how individuals can exert leverage in an organization—the skills, strategies, power tools, and power tactics successful corporate entrepreneurs use to turn ideas into innovations. Getting a promising new idea through the system is the way in which corporate citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit make a difference for organizations.

Innovative accomplishments differ from merely doing one’s basic job not only in scope and long-run impact but also in what it takes to carry them out. And this is why power is so important.

As individuals with an entrepreneurial bent find the power tools to initiate innovation, they create and work through participative teams. And those teams make it possible for other potential entrepreneurs to step forward with useful new ideas.

Innovators needing to build teams to carry out innovating projects do better when they manage expectations from the start, neither promising nor expecting too much and allowing people to define for themselves the level of involvement they desire, opting out of participation in areas they do not care about. But while encouraging participation, innovators still maintain leadership.

The tools of change masters are creative and interactive; they have an intellectual, a conceptual, and a cultural aspect. Change masters deal in symbols and visions and shared understanding as well as the techniques and trappings of their own specialties.

The concepts and visions that drive change must be both inspiring and realistic, based on an assessment of that particular corporation’s strengths and traditions. Clearly there is no “organizational alchemy” capable of transmuting an auto company into an electronics firm; there is only the hard work of searching for those innovations which fit the life stage and thrust of each company. But all companies can create more of the internal conditions that empower their people to carry out the search for those appropriate innovations.

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