Designing Organizational Change

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

Designing Organizational Change 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

Designing Organizational Change 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.

Building organizations that make the right things easy to do and don’t drive people crazy

Through the Friction Project, we are seeking to understand the causes of and cures for dysfunctional organizational friction—and when it is wise to make things harder to do.

Beleaguered executives, front-line employees and even customers have been sending us stories often with disturbing details of frustrating and fatiguing experiences. Their stories illustrate how getting smart and necessary things done requires convoluted, time-consuming and soul-crushing gyrations—which get worse as organizations grow, age and become more complex.


  1. We consider both rational and emotional elements of organizational friction — solutions include redesigning organizations, changing leaders’ deeds and words, and, at times, providing therapy to overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted people.
  2. We’ve designed our journey to encourage suggestions and critiques. We are sharing our unfinished ideas — hunches, explanations and solutions—with all kinds of people. That way, we hope our ideas about friction will keep getting better.
Learn more at

Articles About Friction

The FRICTION Podcast

Work is packed with wicked and messy problems. Listen up for a double dose of therapy and leadership coaching as Stanford Engineering Professor Bob Sutton and guests laugh in the face of petty office tyrants, challenge worst practices and share helpful tactics to make smart work easier to do and organizations less infuriating.


Robert Sutton

Project Co-Director

Bob Sutton

Hayagreeva Rao

Project Co-Director

Huggy Rao

Alana Conner

Executive Director, Stanford SPARQ

Alana Conner

Chuck Eesley

Associate Professor, MS&E

Headshot of Chuck Eesley

Peter Glynn

Professor, MS&E

Peter Glynn

Chip Heath

Professor, Graduate School of Business

Chip Heath

Pamela Hinds

Professor, MS&E

Pam Hinds

Ramesh Johari

Associate Professor, MS&E

Ramesh Johari, photo by Joel Simon Images

David Kelley

Founder, Stanford

David Kelley

Perry Klebahn

Consulting Associate Professor and Director of Executive Education, Stanford

Perry Klebahn

Hazel Markus

Professor, Psychology

Hazel Markus

Amin Saberi

Associate Professor, MS&E

Amin Saberi

Sarah Soule

Professor, Graduate School of Business

Sarah Soule

Jeremy Utley

Lecturer and Director of Executive Education, Stanford

jeremy utley

Melissa Valentine

Assistant Professor, MS&E

Melissa Valentine
Those interested in learning more about Designing Organizational Change 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
Kaye Foster
Senior Advisor, The Boston Consulting Group
Chris Fry
Angel Investor
Elizabeth Gerber
Associate Professor, Northwestern University
Adam Grant
Professor, Wharton Business School
Rebecca Hinds
Inc. Columnist and Organizational Researcher
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
Executive Vice President, Customer and Employee Experience, Adobe
Dan Pink
Joe Porac
Professor, New York University
Diego Rodriguez
Executive Vice President, Chief Product and Design Officer, Intuit
Prasad Setty
Vice President, People Analytics & Compensation, Google
Bonny Simi
President, JetBlue Technology Ventures

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 Designing Organizational Change. 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.

Affiliated Courses

  • MS&E 280
    Instructor(s): Robert Sutton
  • MS&E 284
    Instructor(s): Melissa Valentine
  • 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
  • Hayagreeva Rao, Julie Makinen, 2018
  • Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, Isaac Waisberg, 2009
  • Dave Hoyt, Huggy Rao, 2008
  • Dave Hoyt, Charles O’Reilly, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2010
  • Davina Drabkin, Jon Jamieson, Huggy Rao, Sarah Soule, Bob Sutton, 2016
  • Ryan Kissick, Huggy Rao, Bob Sutton, 2015

Connect with Bob