Chapter | Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective | 2015

Leading Proactive Punctuated Change

by Michael Tushman, Charles O'Reilly and Bruce Harreld


This chapter focuses on leading proactive punctuated change. Based on the institutional and organizational change literatures and our extended involvement with IBM between 1999 and 2008, we suggest that proactive punctuated change can be effectively managed through an engineered social process designed and led by the senior leadership team. Where reactive punctuated change is driven by crisis conditions, the motivation and energy required to lead proactive punctuated change is rooted in an overarching aspiration coupled with a contradictory strategic challenge. The challenge to simultaneously explore and exploit provides the logic, tension, and requirement for experimentation that helps an extended management community collectively learn how to execute strategic organizational renewal. This change process involves disciplined conversations, actions, and associated learning by the senior team, diffusing these learning capabilities to the extended senior leadership team and, over time, to the larger leadership community. We connect principles for leading proactive punctuated change to organizational change dilemmas associated with sustainability.


Tushman, Michael, Charles O'Reilly, and Bruce Harreld. "Leading Proactive Punctuated Change." Chap. 10 in Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective, edited by Rebecca Henderson, Ranjay Gulati, and Michael Tushman. Oxford University Press, 2015.