Chris Argyris


Chris Argyris (1923-2013) was a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School. His work with respect to thinking about relationships of people and organizations, learning organizations and action research is known and recognized throughout the world. Famous author Peter Senge who attended lectures given by Chris Argyris in the past, refers to his theories about organizational learning in his best-selling book The Fifth Discipline (1990).

Biography Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris was born in New Jersey on 16 July 1923 and grew up there. Argyris obtained his first degree (MA) from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1947. There he came into contact with Kurt Lewin who had begun setting up the research center for group dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Chris Argyris went on to obtain a Master’s degree (MSc.) in economics from Kansas University in 1949. And he received his doctorate (Ph.D.) in Organizational Behaviour from Cornell University in New York in 1951. Chris Argyris was supervised by William F. Whyte. He was a faculty member at Yale University in Connecticut from 1951 to 1971 and Chris Argyris served as a Professor of Administration Science and as Chairman of the faculty. He has been a Professor of Organizational Science at Harvard University since 1971.

Chris Argyris earlier research explored the impact of formal organizational structures, control systems and the management of individuals. The results of this earlier research can be found in two books namely Personality and Organization (1957) and Integrating the Individual and the Organization (1964). The results from earlier research and responses to this caused Chris Argyris to shift his focus to organizational change and the exploration of the behaviour of individuals in general and that of top management in particular.

This was remarkable and it led to Chris Argyris developing most of his well-known intervention theories and methods. Donald Schön has made a major contribution with respect to the theoretical development of individual and organizational learning. Chris Argyris and Donald Schön explored the concept of “learning systems” in depth as far as research and development are concerned. Both he and Donald Schön maintained certain ideas about the flexibility of people and organizations.

Life experiences and lessons learned in life should contribute to the development of people and organizations in times of change. These ideas have been further developed in the theory of “Organizational learning”. Schön and Agyris made their contributions to this by developing the theory of single- and double loop learning.

In addition to ground breaking research Chris Argyris also gave lectures. He is characterized as an influential teacher who inspires and enthuses students such as Peter Senge by providing them with practical exercises.

3 famous quotes by Chris Argyris

  1. “Most people define learning too narrowly as mere ‘problem-solving’, so they focus on identifying and correcting errors in the external environment. Solving problems is important. But if learning is to persist, managers and employees must also look inward. The need to reflect critically on their own behaviour, identify the ways they often inadvertently contribute to the organisation’s problems, and then change how they act.”
  2. “Success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning. Yet most people don’t know how to learn.”
  3. “Managers who are skilled communicators may also be good at covering up real problems.”

Publications and books by Chris Argyris et al.

  • 2004: Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019926807X. 2004.
  • 2000: Flawed Advice and the Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They’re Getting Good Advice and When They’re Not. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195132866.
  • 1999: On Organizational Learning, 2nd ed. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Business. ISBN 0631213082.
  • 1996: Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method and Practice. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0201629836.
  • 1993: On Organizational Learning. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell. ISBN 1557862621
  • 1993: Knowledge for Action: a Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1555425194.
  • 1990: Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0205123384.
  • 1985: Action Science: Concepts, Methods, and Skills for Research and Intervention. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0875896650.
  • 1982: Reasoning, Learning, and Action: Individual and Organizational. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0875895247.
  • 1980: Inner Contradictions of Rigorous Research. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0120601508
  • 1978: Organizational Learning: a Theory of Action Perspective. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0201001748
  • 1978: Regulating Business: the Search for an Optimum. San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies. ISBN 0917616278
  • 1976: Increasing Leadership Effectiveness. New York: Wiley. ISBN 0471016683
  • 1974: Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0875892302
  • 1974: Behind the Front Page: Organizational Self-Renewal in a Metropolitan Newspaper. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 087589223X
  • 1972: The Applicability of Organizational Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521084482
  • 1971: Management and Organizational Development: the Path from XA to YB. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070022194
  • 1970: Intervention Theory and Method: a Behavioral Science View. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0201003422
  • 1965: Organization and Innovation. Homewood, Ill.: R.D. Irwin. OCLC 228981
  • 1964: Integrating the Individual and the Organization. New York: Wiley. ISBN 0471033154
  • 1962: Interpersonal Competence and Organizational Effectiveness. Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press. OCLC 254242
  • 1957: Personality and Organization: the Conflict between System and the Individual. New York: Harper. OCLC 243920

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