John Collier, American Indians and Action Research

“The American society is physically, religiously, socially, and aesthetically shattered, dismembered, directionless”

-John Collier

Before British came to India, Indians believed in multicultural diversity. Europeans then were ethnocentric and believed that god had given them mandate to educate millions of ignorant Asians. Europeans took this task very seriously and called it “Whiteman’s Burden”.

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

-Thomas Macaulay

Situation was not very different in US; European settlers believed that Red Indians should assimilate into European culture.


John Collier was American anthropologist, who had different view, he studied American Indian tribes and came to conclusion that assimilation will destroy Red Indian culture proposed concept of multicultural diversity, so called “Indian New Deal”.  The major goal of this deal was to reverse the traditional goal of assimilation of Indians into American society, and to strengthen, encourage and perpetuate the tribes and their historic traditions and culture.

John Collier shattered myth of “Whiteman’s burden” by exposing the greed of Europeans.

“The Indian let the ownership of his allotted lands slip from him. The job of taking the Indian’s lands away, begun by the white man through military expeditions and treaty commissions, was completed by cash purchase—always of course, of the best lands which the Indian had left.”

-John Collier


The method that he used to study American Indian tribes came to be known as “Action Research” i.e. do scientific data based research and based on finding of research take action, post action reflect on outcome and use findings to further improve action plan.

Kurt Lewin, founding father of Organisational Development, borrowed concept of Action Research from John Collier and used it field of OD. Action research along with system based approach and humanitarian values became basic foundation of Organisational Development.



Managing Resistance to Change

Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm.”

— Peter Drucker

Kurt Lewin came up with concept of force field analysis. For every change there are forces which support change and there are forces which oppose change. As long as these forces are equal, equilibrium is maintained.

If you wish to bring about change then the leader has to reduce the intensity of forces resisting the change. This can be done through various ways like open and transparent communication, use of super- ordinate goals, use of power etc.

Once the resistance is reduced the change takes place, as forces in favour of change are stronger than forces resisting the change i.e. the equilibrium are broken.

“After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if ever there was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them.”

— Marshall Goldsmith

Post change, employees fall in four categories depending on their reaction to change…

  • Protestors- Make their objections known to organisation and colleagues, but over a period of time protest dies down and these employees are manageable.

'This is the most positive thing I've done all year.'

  • Zombies- Have no opinion and go with the flow i.e. go along any proposed change without protest.


  • Saboteurs- Will always try to show that old ways were best, and don’t miss any opportunity to find faults with new system. They will always seek opportunities to make change fail


  • Survivors- Accept change and make best use of any opportunity for their benefit.A change agent should be aware of how many employees are there in each category and accordingly design plan to mitigate post change related problems.


A change agent should be aware of how many employees are there in each category and accordingly design plan to mitigate post change related problems.

Jack Stack, Innovation and Open Book Management

“I grew up in a lower-middle-class family that didn’t have a lot of money…My parents worked extra jobs just to be able to fund Christmas. There was a lot of fear in my house…What we’re doing here in Springfield is showing people how to get through life without fear. Once people understand what it takes to be a businessperson, not just a cog in the system but somebody on the brighter side of capitalism, then their lives can change forever.”

-Jack Stack, Founder and CEO, SRC

In 1983, 13 employees of Springfield ReManufacturing Corp ( SRC) brought the company from its owner ( they used their savings and took loan to buy the company). At that time company was in deep financial trouble, its stock was valued at 10 cents per share ( roughly Rs.6) and it had debt to equity ratio of 89:1 ( for every dollar of equity, there was debt of $89)

'Just exactly how bad is our cash flow problem?'

Jack Stack, one of the founders who became CEO, within 5 years brought debt to equity ratio to 1.8:1 and stock was valued at $ 13 per share. SRC today has 1200 employees, with turnover of $400 million.


This miracle was brought about by an innovative technique called as Open Book Management System. The system was called “open book management” because the company opened its books to employees (Jack Stack himself calls it “Great Game of Business”). In addition to making all the financial data open to employees, Stack also taught his employees about business. He helped them understand the finances of their business (as company is owned by employees) — he showed them how their department’s finances ran, and how they could help the company, and themselves, make a profit.

At SRC, employees don’t waste products because they know what those products cost, and know that wasting them takes money out of their pockets. Everyone, from secretaries to engine assemblers, can tell you what kind of return their work creates for the company, and the costs of the products they use.

“I like scorecards. I’m a numbers junkie. I’ve got an addiction to numbers. I’ve got a memory that remembers everything. It’s a game, it’s really a game, and it’s fun.”

-Jack Stack

Getting employees involved in decision making can help give them a sense of ownership. Sometimes, a little too much.

In SRC culture of ownership permeates the entire organization from the CEO to the shop floor. A key part of this is business education that is regularly promoted throughout the company to help everyone in the company understand the financials, which are published in lunchrooms and other visible locations throughout the plants.

John London, Scabs and Strikes

“After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumour of rotten principles. When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and Angels weep in Heaven, and the Devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out….”

-John London, American author and social activist

Industrial relations is about how three entities  – labour unions, management and government (judiciary) interact with each other, aim is to maintain industrial peace and improve productivity.

Prime Minister Modi is encouraging manufacturing companies to make India their manufacturing hub (Make in India), increase in manufacturing will impact the dynamics of relations between these three entities.

Unions react to management’s perceived mistreatment by strike (while management’s counter weapon is lockout), boycott and picketing.


In case of strike, the management uses a powerful weapon to break the strikes – scabs.

A scab is a person who works despite an on-going strike. Scabs are not employed by the company prior to the trade union dispute, but rather hired after or during the strike to keep the organization running. Workers (union members or not) who cross picket lines to work are also called scabs.

scab 2

John London was an American author who wrote famous novels like Sea Wolf, The Call of Wild, White Fang etc. He was also a socialist and supporter of worker’s rights.

He felt that scabs biggest obstacle in progress of workers. They reduced the bargaining power of workers. He compared scabs to vampires and rattlesnakes. Though in his later writings he took more balanced view of scabs.

“The labourer who gives more time or strength or skill for the same wage than another, or equal time or strength or skill for a less wage, is a scab. The generousness on his part is hurtful to his fellow-labourers, for it compels them to an equal generousness which is not to their liking, and which gives them less of food and shelter. But a word may be said for the scab. Just as his act makes his rivals compulsorily generous, so do they, by fortune of birth and training, make compulsory his act of generousness.”

-John London, American author and social activist

scabs 1

The scabs were earlier called as black legs. There is an English folk song- Blackleg Miner- written in 19th century which ends with warning, asking blackleg to join union.

So join the union while you may.

 Don’t wait till your dying day,

 For that may not be far away,

 You dirty blackleg miner!


Albert Hirschman, Creativity and Dissatisfaction

“Since we necessarily underestimate our creativity it is desirable that we underestimate to a roughly similar extent the difficulties of the tasks we face, so as to be tricked by these two offsetting underestimates into undertaking tasks which we can, but otherwise would not dare, tackle.

The principle is important enough to deserve a name: since we are apparently on the trail here of some sort of Invisible or Hidden Hand that beneficially hides difficulties from us, I propose “The Hiding Hand.”

–  Albert Hirschman


Albert Otto Hirschman was economist who made significant contribution to developmental economics.


He did lot of research on concept of dissatisfaction. He came to conclusion that members of an organization (be it business organisation or nation) have essentially two possible responses when they perceive that the organization is demonstrating a decrease in quality or benefit to the member- they can exit (withdraw from the relationship) or they can voice (through complaint, grievance or proposal for change).

'...then I said, 'give me a raise, or I quit'.'

For example, the citizens of a country may respond to increasing political repression in two ways- emigrate or protest. Employees can choose to quit their unpleasant job, or express their concerns in an effort to improve the situation. Disgruntled customers ask for the manager, or they choose to shop elsewhere.


He felt that quitting was not always the answer. By quitting the employee/citizens/customers are depriving organisation of their opinion or suggestions for improvement. Here he came with third concept – loyalty ex. if employees instead of quitting, stay loyal to organisation, then they can improve situation by voicing their concerns.  It is beneficial for organisation to listen to voice of dissatisfied customers/employees than allowing them to quit.

voice loyaty

He was also interested in field of creativity and came up hiding hand principle. The hiding hand principle states that when a person decides to take on a project, the ignorance of future obstacles allows the person to rationally choose to undertake the project, and once it is underway the person will utilize his creativity to overcome the obstacles he encounters because it is too late to abandon the project.

He gives example of paper mill in Bangladesh. The mill always used bamboo in surrounding area as raw material for making paper, but sudden flowering of bamboo (which happens once in 50-60 years) resulted in death of bamboo making them useless for paper making. Since survival was at stake the owner used waterways to get bamboo from other parts of Bangladesh and also started experimenting on use of other raw materials, all this resulted in better quality of paper.

'Once you get the hang of it, crisis management is fairly straightforward.'

The hidden hand had made owner blind to flowering of bamboo. Had bamboo not flowered, owner would have continued with inferior quality of paper. Crisis forced creativity.


Gender Diversity, Female Board Members & Leaking Pipeline

SEBI had made it compulsory for companies to have at least one female board member. Many organisations are finding it hard to find a qualified female board member, as there are very few such female professionals. To avoid penalty some organisations have appointed their wives, daughters, females relatives on board, who are not qualified, and this defeats the very purpose i.e. to bring diversity at board level.

women on board

“It’s a mockery of the law. The compliance has substantially been done in letter and not in spirit…more than half the companies have appointed their relatives onto the board, who will speak in the same voice as their promoters and so the diversity being sought by SEBI has been defeated.”

– Pranav Haldea, Managing Director of PRIME Database

Some are of opinion that there are enough qualified women, it is just that male members are preventing entry of female member.

“That is really just a bogey. There are plenty of highly qualified women out there in sectors such as banking and finance, but they are not being allowed to join this old boys’ club…only a thousand or so qualified women are needed. Is it really that hard to find these women in India?”

– Pranav Haldea, Managing Director of PRIME Database

'I'd rather be high up on the Totem Pole than high up on a pedestal.'

While some others feel that despite flaws, it has started process of induction of females at  board level.

” This should not be about tokenism. The intent was really to get more women professionals into the boardrooms…having said that, at least we are breaking that particular male bastion and we are at least including women in the boardroom, even if they are from the promoter’s families”

-Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon Limited.

Organisational psychologist, Lynda Gratton uses analogy of leaking pipeline to explain reason for having so few qualified female professionals at top. Like water in leaking pipeline, the female workforce keep dropping out of corporate world due to reasons like marriage, child birth etc. After dropping very few try to get back into corporate world.

pipeline 2

While some organisations like TATAs have started programs like “The Second Career Internship Programme” which is aimed at professional women who have taken a career break and are looking to return to the job market, still damage done by leaking pipeline is significant.

'Going back to work now that the kids are grown is one thing, Martha.  Mounting a hostile takeover bid of my company is another!'

“… across most industrial sectors, while 50 per cent of graduates recruited are women, only 30 per cent of managers are women and about 15 per cent of senior executives are women. Clearly, there is a leak in the pipeline that filters out many women en route to the corporate suite. Many reasons for this leak have been explored. Women fail to see role models at the top and leave to find a better working situation or create one of their own. They might also leave because they feel forced to choose between work and home. Only 48 per cent of female team leaders we surveyed have children, while 96 per cent of their male colleagues are fathers. A worrying trend is that more women are leaving. Without swift action, the 50:30:15 ratios will continue to be a drain on talent and a negative pull on performance.”

-Lynda Gratton

leaked pipeline 1





Kurt Lewin, Force Field Analysis and Change Management

The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades”

 – John P. Kotter

In change management, two metaphors are used to describe the type of change that take place in organisation.

The calm waters metaphor characterizes the process of change as being like a ship crossing a calm sea, while the white-water rapids metaphor describes change that takes place in uncertain and dynamic environments.


Kurt Lewin was German psychologist who has contributed a lot to field of organisational development. In area of change management, he came up with two concepts which are widely used today.


First is the change process model, which is a good example of calm water metaphor. According to Lewin change comes in three processes- Unfreeze (reduce forces of status quo), Move (develop new attitudes) and Refreeze (reinforce new attitude)

change management

His second concept was that of Force field analysis. During change there are forces which support change and there are forces which oppose change, it only when pro change forces are stronger than forces opposing change that change process starts i.e. unfreeze state starts.


Lewin also made significant contribution in areas like leadership, action research and group dynamics.