Michael L. Tushman: A Practice-Informed Explorer and Organizational Scholar with a Focus on Viable Organizations

  • Sonja Sackmann
Living reference work entry


This paper explores the contributions of organization theorist Michael L. Tushman to the field of organization change and development. The first section gives an overview of his early professional development and important professional stages followed by his key contributions to the field. These include his early focus on innovation and boundary spanning roles in innovation systems as well as an information processing approach for understanding and designing organizations also using network analysis. His quest for phenomena-driven and practically relevant work with a focus on the entire system and processes leads to the development of the congruence model – a general model to research, understand, assess, and further develop organizations. His work with doctoral students resulted in the punctuated equilibrium model that he applied to both organizations and technological changes as external forces of change. Another important contribution is his effort in solving Abernathy’s productivity dilemma by developing the concept of ambidextrous organizations. These can deal with the apparent paradox of simultaneous exploitation and exploration. Ambidextrous organizations require, however, ambidextrous leadership – a concept that he explored in detail with his long-term colleague and friend Charles O’Reilley. The final section gives an overview of the many awards that he received up to this point as well as the way in which he worked. Most of his theories and frameworks were codeveloped with colleagues and doctoral students in a dialogical fashion. The paper closes with Michael Tushman’s future concerns whether the developed theories, models, and recommendations regarding innovation will still hold in an increasingly web-based society.


Ambidexterity, ambidextrous organization, ambidextrous leader Congruence model Contradictions and paradoxes at the organizational level Executive succession Exploration, exploitation Open system Organizational evolution Organizational innovation Organizational transformation as punctuated change Productivity dilemma Punctuated equilibrium in technological change Technological change, technological discontinuities 


  1. Abernathy, W. J. (1978). The productivity dilemma: Roadblock to innovation in the automobile industry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, P., & Tushman, M. L. (1991). Managing through cycles of technological change. Research Technology Management, 34(3), 26–31.Google Scholar
  3. Benner, M. J., & Tushman, M. L. (2003). Exploitation, exploration and process management: The productivity dilemma revisited. Academy of Management Review, 28(2), 238–256.Google Scholar
  4. Benner, M. J., & Tushman, M. L. (2015). Reflections on the 2013 Decade Award – “Exploitation, exploration, and process management: The productivity dilemma revisited” ten years later. Academy of Management Review, 40(4), 497–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Greiner, L. (1972). Evolution and revolution as organizations grow. Harvard Business Review, 50, 37–46.Google Scholar
  6. Lewin, K. (1947). Group decisions and social change. In T. M. Newcomb & E. L. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in social psychology. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  7. Lippitt, R., Watson, J., & Westley, B. (1958). The dynamics of planned change. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.Google Scholar
  8. March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organizational Learning, 2(1), 71–87.Google Scholar
  9. McGrath, R., MacMillan, I., & Tushman, M. L. (1992). The role of executive team actions in shaping dominant designs: Towards shaping technological progress. Strategic Management Journal, 13(1), 137–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Nadler, D. A., & Tushman, M. L. (1980). A model for diagnosing organizational behavior. Organizational Dynamics, 9(2), 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Nadler, D. A., & Tushman, M. L. (1989). Organizational frame-bending: Principles for managing reorientation. Academy of Management Executive, 3(3), 194–204.Google Scholar
  12. Nadler, D. A., & Tushman, M. L. (1980). Beyond the charismatic leader: Leadership and organizational change. In The training and development sourcebook, California Management Review, 32(2), 77--97. DOI: 10.2307/41166606.Google Scholar
  13. Nadler, D. A., & Tushman, M. L. (1999). The organizations of the future: Strategic imperatives and core competences for the 21st century. Organizational Dynamics, 28(1), 45–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. O’Reilly III, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2004). The ambidextrous organization. Harvard Business Review, 82(4), 74–81.Google Scholar
  15. O’Reilly III, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2008). Ambidexterity as a dynamic capability: Resolving the innovator’s dilemma. Research in Organizational Behavior, 28(1), 185–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. O’Reilly III, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2011). Organizational ambidexterity in action: How managers explore and exploit. California Management Review, 53(4), 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. O’Reilley III, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2013). Organizational ambidexterity: Past, present, and future. Academy of Management Perspectives, 27(4), 324–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. O’Reilley III, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2016). Lead and disrupt how to solve the innovator’s dilemma. Stanford University Books. Standford: Stanford University pressGoogle Scholar
  19. Probst, G., Raisch, S., & Tushman, M. L. (2011). Ambidextrous leadership: Emerging challenges for business and HR leaders. Organizational Dynamics, 40(4), 326–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Romanelli, E., & Tushman, M. L. (1994). Organizational transformation as punctuated equilibrium: An empirical test. Academy of Management Journal, 37(5), 1141–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Tichy, N., Tushman, M. L., & Fombrum, C. (1979). Social network analysis for organizations. Academy of Management Review, 4(4), 507–520.Google Scholar
  22. Tushman, M. L. (1977). Special boundary roles in the innovation process. Administrative Science Quarterly, 22(4), 587–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tushman, M. L. (1979). Managing communication networks in research and development laboratories. MIT Sloan School Management Review, 20(2), 37–49.Google Scholar
  24. Tushman, M. L. (2004). Managing strategic innovation and change: A collection of readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Tushman, M. L. (2014). The ambidextrous leader: Leadership tips for today to stay in the game tomorrow. IESE Insights, 3(4), 31–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tushman, M. L., & Anderson, P. (1986). Technological discontinuities and organizational environments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31(3), 439–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tushman, M. L., & Katz, R. (1980). External communication and project performance: An investigation into the role of gatekeepers. Management Science, 26, 1071–1085.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tushman, M. L., & Katz, R. (1982). Does gatekeeping make a difference? ChemTech, 12, 151–161.Google Scholar
  29. Tushman, M. L., & Katz, R. (1983). A longitudinal study of the effects of boundary spanning supervision on turnover and promotion in research and development. Academy of Management Journal, 26(3), 437–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tushman, M. L., & Nadler, D. A. (1978). Information processing as an integrated concept in organizational design. Academy of Management Review, 3(3), 613–624.Google Scholar
  31. Tushman, M. L., & Nadler, D. (1986). Organizing for innovation. California Management Review, 28(3), 74–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tushman, M. L., & O’Reilley III, C. A. (2007). Research and relevance: Implications of Pasteur’s quadrant for doctoral programs and faculty development. Academy of Management Journal, 50(4), 769–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tushman, M. L., & Romanelli, E. (1985). Organizational evolution: A metamorphosis model of convergence and reorientation. Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 171.Google Scholar
  34. Tushman, M. L., & Scanlan, T. (1981). Boundary spanning individuals. Their role in information transfer and their antecedents. Academy of Management Journal, 24(2), 289–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tushman, M. L., Virany, B., & Romanelli, E. (1992). Executive succession, strategic reorientation and organization evolution. Technology in Society, 42(7), 297–314.Google Scholar
  36. Tushman, M. L., Smith, W. K., & Binns, A. (2011). The ambidextrous CEO. Harvard Business Review, 89(6), 74–80.Google Scholar
  37. Seong, S. (2014). A conversation with Michael Tushman on leadership, innovation, and strategic change.
  38. Seong, S., Kim, Y., & Szulanski, G. (2015). Leadership, innovation and strategic change: A conversation with Michael Tushman. Journal of Management Inquiry, 24(4), 370–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Adler, P. S., Benner, M., Brunner, D. J., MacDuffie, J. P.; Osono, E., Staats, B. R., Takeuchi, H., Tushman, M. L., & Winter, S. G. (2009). Perspectives on the productivity dilemma. Journal of Operations Management, 27(2), 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, P., & Tushman, M. L. (1990). Technological discontinuities and dominant design: A cyclical model of technological change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1), 604–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Binns, A., Harreld, B. J., O’Reilly III, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2014). The art of strategic renewal. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(2), 21–23.Google Scholar
  4. Hambrick, D., Nadler, D., & Tushman, M. L.(1998). Navigating change: How CEO’s, top teams and boards steer transformation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  5. Henderson, R., Gulati, R., & Tushman, M. L. (Eds.). (2015). Leading sustainable change: An organizational perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Kleinbaum, A. M., Stuart, T. E., & Tushman, M. L. (2013). Discretion within constraint: Homophily and structure in a formal organization. Organization Science, 24(5), 1316–1336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Nadler, D., & Tushman, M. L. (1988). Strategic organization design. Glenview: Scott, Foresman and Company.Google Scholar
  8. Nadler, D., & Tushman, M. L. (1998). Competing by design: The power of organizational architectures. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. O’Reilly, III, C. A., Harreld, J. B., & Tushman, M. L. (2009).Organizational ambidexterity: IBM and emerging business opportunities. California Management Review, 51(4), 75–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Polzer, J., Gulati, R. Khurana, R., & Tushman, M. L. (2009). Crossing boundaries to increase relevance in organizational research. Journal of Management Inquiry, 18(4), 280–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Raisch, S., Birkinshaw, J. Probst, J., & Tushman, M. L. (2009). Organizational ambidexterity: Balancing exploitation and exploration for sustained performance. Organization Science, 20(4), 685–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Rosenkopf, L., & Tushman, M. L. (1992). On the organizational determinants of technological change: Towards a sociology of technological evolution. Research in Organizational Behavior, 14.Google Scholar
  13. Smith, W. K., Binns, A., & Tushman, M. L. (2010). Complex business models: Managing strategic paradoxes simultaneously. Special Issue on Business Models. Long Range Planning, 43(2), 448–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Tushman, M. L. (1974). Organizational change: An exploratory study and case history. Ithaca: New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations.Google Scholar
  15. Tushman, M. L. (2007). On the co-evolution of knowing and doing: A personal perspective on the synergies between research and practice. Journal of Management Inquiry, 16(2), 132–138.Google Scholar
  16. Tushman, M. L. (2014). The ambidextrous leader: Leadership tips for today to stay in the game tomorrow. IESE Insight, 23, 31–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Tushman, M. L., & Allen, T. J. (1979). Modes of technology transfer as a function of position in the research-development-technical service spectrum. Academy of Management Journal, 22(4), 694–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Tushman, M. L., & O’Reilly III, C. A. (2002). Winning through innovation: A practical guide to leading organizational change and renewal. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  19. Tushman, M. L., O’Reilly III, C. A., & Nadler, D. (Eds.). (1989). The management of organizations. New York: Ballinger Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Tushman, M. L., Fenollosa, A., McGrath, D., O’Reilly III, C. A., & Kleinbaum, A. M. (2007). Relevance and rigor: Executive education as a lever in shaping practice and research. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(3), 345–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Tushman, M. L., Smith, W. K., & Binns, A. (2011). The ambidextrous CEO. Harvard Business Review, 89(6), 74–80.Google Scholar
  22. Tushman, M. L., Lakhani, K., & Lifshitz-Assaf, H. (2012). Open innovation and organization design. Special Issue on the Future of Organization Design. Journal of Organization Design, 1(1), 24–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Management and Organization Sciences, EZO Institute for Developing Viable OrganizationsUniversity Bundeswehr MunichNeubibergGermany

Personalised recommendations