Designing Organizational Change Project

Our Mission: To help leaders and teams change their organizations for the better.

The Designing Organizational Change Project develops solutions that spur constructive beliefs and actions (and that squelch destructive ones). We bring together students, faculty, and leaders from a host of for-profit and non-profit organizations — we work with people bent on learning why and how effective change happens despite the inevitable countervailing forces. We uncover, tinker with, and test promising solutions in our classes, studies, and projects with organizations; we do basic and applied research to understand why and when approaches are (and are not) useful; and we capture and communicate these lessons in academic and applied reports, case studies, and change tools.
Stanford Engineering Management Science and Engineering STVP

This project is an initiative of the department of Management Science & Engineering and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), in collaboration with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.

Team

Robert Sutton

Professor, MS&E

Project Co-Director

Bio
Bob Sutton

Hayagreeva Rao

Professor, Graduate School of Business

Project Co-Director

Bio
Huggy Rao

Alana Conner

Executive Director, Stanford SPARQ

Bio
Alana Conner

Chuck Eesley

Assistant Professor, MS&E

Bio
Headshot of Chuck Eesley

Peter Glynn

Professor, MS&E

Bio
Peter Glynn

Chip Heath

Professor, Graduate School of Business

Bio
Chip Heath

Pamela Hinds

Professor, MS&E

Bio
Pam Hinds

Ramesh Johari

Associate Professor, MS&E

Bio
Ramesh Johari, photo by Joel Simon Images

David Kelley

Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Founder, Stanford d.school

Bio
David Kelley

Perry Klebahn

Consulting Associate Professor and Director of Executive Education, Stanford d.school

Bio
Perry Klebahn

Hazel Markus

Professor, Psychology

Bio
Hazel Markus

Amin Saberi

Associate Professor, MS&E

Bio
Amin Saberi

Sarah Soule

Professor, Graduate School of Business

Bio
Sarah Soule

Jeremy Utley

Lecturer and Director of Executive Education, Stanford d.school

Bio
jeremy utley

Melissa Valentine

Assistant Professor, MS&E

Bio
Melissa Valentine
Those interested in learning more about the project may contact Professor Robert Sutton.

The Kitchen Cabinet

Smart people we like to talk to about organizational change

Shona Brown
Independent Advisor
Anthony S. Bryk
President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Jack Chorowsky
President, KIPP
Michael Dearing
Founder, Harrison Metal
Chris Fry
Angel Investor
Elizabeth Gerber
Associate Professor, Northwestern University
Adam Grant
Professor, Wharton Business School
Jacob Jaber
CEO, Philz Coffee
Bob Johansen
Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future
John Lilly
Partner, Greylock Partners
Becky Kanis Margiotta
Co-Founder, Billions Institute
Joe McCannon
Co-Founder, Billions Institute
Patty McCord
Principal, Patty McCord Consulting
Lenny Mendonca
Director Emeritus, McKinsey & Company
Donna Morris
Senior Vice President, People and Places, Adobe
Dan Pink
Author
Joe Porac
Professor, New York University
Diego Rodriguez
Partner, IDEO
Prasad Setty
Vice President, People Analytics and Compensation, Google
Bonny Simi
VP of Talent, JetBlue

Ten Things We Believe About Leading Change

1

Leading change requires an odd blend of patience and impatience. Change requires patience because it is difficult and takes so long. It also requires persistent impatience about the progress that you are making RIGHT NOW. If you don’t keep learning and moving ahead every day, change will take even longer and may never happen at all.

2

Leading change requires the confidence to act on your convictions and the humility to realize that you might be wrong.

3

Go from “bad to great.” Because bad is so much stronger good, effective leaders devote more attention to “eliminating the negative” than to “accentuating the positive.”

4

Change requires addition and subtraction. The best leaders clear the way for adding necessary new things by constantly subtracting unnecessary old things.

5

Collective pride and anger propel faster and deeper change than financial incentives.

6

Silence is not golden. It signals that people believe the change “isn’t not my job,” they are afraid to speak up, or just don’t care.

7

Don’t think of people who resist change as idiots. Instead, treat it as a sign that something is wrong with the change or with how it is being implemented.

8

There is a difference between what you do and how you do it. Change often entails upsetting and hurting good people. The best leaders find ways to limit such damage — they devote particular attention to treating people with dignity and respect.

9

The best leaders treat change as a manageable mess.

10

Life happens while you make other plans. No matter how well-crafted your goals, milestones, metrics, and incentives might be, the change you get will not be what you expect.

Affiliates Program

Through the support and engagement of forward-thinking leaders and organizations, the DOC Affiliates Program (DOC) creates a learning community of students, faculty, and industry leaders — from a diverse set of companies and backgrounds — committed to understanding how and why change happens in organizations. We build and test promising solutions in our classes using real world situations that members may offer to DOC faculty for class studies, convene shared conversations on critical challenges for organizations, develop effective research and tools to help leaders and teams change their organizations for the better, and may conduct site visits to present the DOC research findings and to discuss research areas of mutual interest. DOC research results arising from the site visits will be shared with all DOC members and the public. Our learning community’s current focus areas include: 1) driving innovation in large organizations and 2) discovering actionable solutions for reducing friction, frustration and fatigue in organizations while maintaining necessary complexity.

Affiliate Membership

To maintain an engaged and beneficial learning community, the DOC Affiliates Program asks organizations that wish to become affiliates to contribute $75,000 annually to the Designing Organizational Change Project. We highly encourage a two-year commitment to provide stability around expectations for programming, research support, and staffing. Organizations may join at any time during the year. Membership fees provide unrestricted funding that support our experiential courses, basic and applied research, PhD student support, the development of tools for scaling and organizational change, and infrastructure to share insights and build interaction experiences for members and the Stanford community. Specific member benefits include:
  • Opportunity to support a DOC-affiliated course
  • Invitations to DOC educational events at Stanford
  • Access to our catalog of change tools for teams and organizations
  • Annual meeting at Stanford with faculty and other affiliate members to explore organizational change topics on a specific focus
  • Access to webinars with faculty and industry experts on organizational change
  • One annual on-site meeting at the member organization to discuss organizational change insights
  • Opportunity for an executive of the member organization to take part in a DOC-affiliated course at Stanford, once every two years (with two-year commitment)
All members of the DOC Affiliate Program are subject to Stanford University Policies for Industrial Affiliates Programs.
For more information on membership, please contact STVP Executive Director Matt Harvey.

Change Projects

  • Rui Jia, Jacob Model , Hayagreeva Rao
  • Melissa Valentine
  • Perry Klebahn, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, Jeremy Utley
  • Zachariah Rodgers

Affiliated Courses

  • MS&E 280
    Instructor(s): Robert Sutton
  • MS&E 284
    Instructor(s): Melissa Valentine
  • ME 368
    Instructor(s): Perry Klebahn, Jeremy Utley
  • MS&E 487
    Instructor(s): Perry Klebahn, Kathryn Segovia, Bob Sutton, Jeremy Utley
  • MS&E 488
    Instructor(s): Pamela Hinds, Julie Stanford
  • STRAMGT 544
    Instructor(s): Huggy Rao, Shantanu Narayen

Case Studies

  • Rebecca Hinds, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2014
  • Rebecca Hinds, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2014
  • Carter Bowen, Gib Lopez, Huggy Rao, 2014
  • Dave Hoyt, Huggy Rao, 2008
  • Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, Isaac Waisberg, 2009
  • Dave Hoyt, Charles O’Reilly, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2010
  • Dave Hoyt, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2013
  • Ryan Kissick, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2015

Press room

Brewing Together Works Better
In the news

Staying one step ahead at Pixar: An interview with Ed Catmull

Interview McKinsey Quarterly
Article

Global Teams Should Have Office Visits, Not Offsites

Pamela Hinds Harvard Business Review
Article

Better Service, Faster: A Design Thinking Case Study

Bob Sutton & David Hoyt Harvard Business Review
In the news

How to Grow Without Losing What Makes You Great

Leigh Buchanan Inc.
Video

Bob Sutton: Scaling Up Excellence

Stanford eCorner
Article

Bad to great: The path to scaling up excellence

Huggy Rao and Bob Sutton McKinsey Quarterly
Article

4 Ways to Decrease Conflict Within Global Teams

Pamela Hinds Harvard Business Review
Article

Why Big Teams Suck

Bob Sutton LinkedIn
Article

Scaling: The Problem of More

Bob Sutton Harvard Business Review
Article

Sarah Soule: How Corporate Activism Alters Companies

Cheryl Phillips Insights by Stanford Business
In the news

Robert Sutton’s Guide to Excellence

Paul Michelman Strategy+Business
Article

12 Things Good Bosses Believe

Bob Sutton Harvard Business Review
Article

12 Books Every Leader Should Read

Bob Sutton LinkedIn
Article

Dropbox’s Secret for Saving Time in Meetings

Rebecca Hinds and Bob Sutton Inc.
In the news

‘Scaffolds’ Add Much-Needed Structure To Temporary Teams

Roberta Holland Forbes.com
Article

Inside the Command Center

Joe McCannon & Becky Kanis Margiotta Stanford Social Innovation Review
Article

How Do Activists Create Change?

Theo Anderson KelloggInsight