Julie Battilana

Associate Professor of Business Administration

Julie Battilana is an Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School. She currently teaches the second-year Power and Influence course and in previous years has taught the first-year Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) course in the MBA program.  She also teaches in the doctoral program and in executive education offerings.

Professor Battilana's research examines the process by which organizations or individuals initiate and implement changes that diverge from the taken-for-granted norms in a field of activity. Such divergent changes are particularly challenging to implement because they require not only breaking with existing norms, but also convincing others to rally behind the change. Professor Battilana’s research aims to elucidate what it takes to initiate divergent change, and how to succeed in its implementation. To do so, she has developed two streams of research that address divergent change at different levels of analysis. The first focuses on understanding the conditions that enable individuals to initiate and implement divergent change within their organizations. The second examines how organizations themselves can diverge from deeply-seated organizational forms, which, as they become taken-for-granted over time, prescribe the structures and management systems that organizations in a given sector ought to adopt. Studies in this stream reveal the role of hybrid organizing in this process—defined as the activities, structures, processes and meanings by which organizations make sense of and combine multiple organizational forms. Professor Battilana's research focuses on a specific instance of hybrid organizing by examining social enterprises that diverge from the established organizational forms of both typical corporations and typical not-for-profits by combining aspects of both at their core. Her work aims to understand how these hybrids can sustainably combine aspects of corporations and not-for-profits at their core and how they can achieve high levels of both social and commercial performance. 

She has articles published or forthcoming in the Academy of Management Annals, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Business Ethics, Leadership QuarterlyManagement Science, Organization, Organization ScienceOrganization Studies, Research in Organizational Behavior and Strategic Organization. Her research has been featured in publications like BusinessWeek, the Huffington Post, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review. She is also a regular contributor to the French newspaper Le Monde.

A native of France, Professor Battilana earned a B.A. in sociology and economics, an M.A. in political sociology and an M.Sc. in organizational sociology and public policy from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan.  She also holds a degree from HEC Business School, and a joint Ph.D. in organizational behavior from INSEAD and in management and economics from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan.

  1. Research overview

    by Julie Battilana

    How can actors – be they individuals or organizations – diverge from deeply-seated norms and develop new ones, when their beliefs and actions are shaped by these very norms? This question lies at the heart of Professor Battilana’s research. To address it, she examines the processes by which individuals and organizations initiate and implement change that diverges from taken-for-granted norms in their environment. Such divergent changes are particularly challenging to implement because they require not only breaking with existing norms, but also convincing others to rally behind the change.

    Professor Battilana’s research aims to elucidate what it takes to initiate divergent change, and how to succeed in its implementation. To do so, she has developed two streams of research that address divergent change at different levels of analysis. The first focuses on understanding the conditions that enable individuals to initiate and implement divergent change within their organizations. The second examines how organizations themselves can diverge from deeply-seated organizational forms, which, as they become taken-for-granted over time, prescribe the structures and management systems that organizations in a given sector ought to adopt. Studies in this stream reveal the role of hybrid organizing in this process—defined as the activities, structures, processes and meanings by which organizations make sense of and combine multiple organizational forms. In her research, Professor Battilana focuses on a specific instance of hybrid organizing by examining social enterprises that diverge from the established organizational forms of both typical corporations and typical not-for-profits by combining aspects of both at their core. 

  2. Divergent change in organizations

    by Julie Battilana

    The first stream of research in Professor Battilana’s work aims to identify the conditions that enable individual actors to initiate divergent change within organizations as well as the conditions enabling successful implementation of such change. It combines theoretical and empirical work based on data that Professor Battilana collected in various organizational settings, including for-profit, not-for-profit, and public organizations as well as social enterprises.

    Through her research, Professor Battilana theorizes and empirically demonstrates that change agents’ likelihood to initiate divergent change depends on their social position, which is dependent on the status of their profession and of their organization, as well as on their position within this organization. Beyond the conditions that enable the initiation of divergent change, Professor Battilana’s research also examines the success factors for implementing such change. Her work indicates that informal networks are critical to change agents’ success. It further shows that while some network configurations are helpful for implementing divergent change, others are more useful in implementing non-divergent change. Building on these findings, Professor Battilana has developed a contingency theory of organizational change that accounts for the level of divergence of the change.

    Taken together, studies in this stream of research have implications not only for theory, but also for practice. They show that all changes are not created equal, and may require distinct skills, networks of relationships and resources depending on how much they diverge from the status quo. 

  3. Hybrid organizing

    by Julie Battilana

    While historically the commercial and social sectors have evolved on fairly separate tracks, over the last 30 years we have witnessed a blurring of the boundaries between these two sectors. In an effort to account for this transition, Professor Battilana’s second stream of research on hybrid organizing examines the combination in organizations of aspects of typical corporations and typical not-for-profits. As organizations increasingly engage in hybrid organizing, Professor Battilana’s work aims to understand the challenges they face and how they can be overcome. To do so, she has thus far focused on the case of social enterprises that can be seen a laboratory for exploring new corporate models that combine aspects of corporations and not-for-profits. 

    Not all organizations engage in hybrid organizing to the same extent – social enterprises are an interesting extreme case because they combine aspects of both corporations and not-for-profits at their core. Indeed, their sustainability depends both on the advancement of their social mission and on their commercial performance. They need to pursue commercial goals while not losing sight of their social goals. At the same time, they need to make sure that their social goals do not prevent them from generating the commercial revenues necessary for survival. Is it possible for such hybrid organizations to maintain their hybridity and sustain high levels of both social and economic performance?  And if so, how? These questions lie at the heart of Professor Battilana’s research on hybrid organizing. 

    Building on both theoretical and empirical work in the context of commercial microfinance organizations and work integration social enterprises, Professor Battilana’s work shows that hybrid organizing raises distinct challenges for social enterprises due to their unusual straddling of the social and commercial sectors. In addition to understanding these challenges, studies in this stream also examine how these challenges can be sustainably overcome. To do so, building on her theoretical and empirical work, Professor Battilana identifies five dimensions of hybrid organizing: organizational activities, workforce composition, organizational design, inter-organizational relationships, and culture. Her research accounts for the level of integration between the social and commercial aspects of all five dimensions. Studies in this stream show that all hybrids are not integrated or differentiated equally across all of these dimensions but rather there are various possible configurations of hybrid organizing. Specifically, findings reveal that both integrated and differentiated configurations of hybrid organizing are sustainable under different conditions.

    Professor Battilana is currently building a unique longitudinal database of social ventures that already includes 2500 entrepreneurs based in 114 countries and operating in 30 different industries. She is using this database in order to analyze the profile of the founders of hybrid organizations and to further examine the impact of different hybrid organizing configurations on ventures’ commercial and social performance.

    Taken together, Professor Battilana’s work on hybrid organizing contributes to organization scholarship and practice by showing that the factors enabling hybrids to succeed in the pursuit of their dual (commercial and social) objectives are different from the ones that enable non-hybrids to succeed. These findings have implications for social enterprises, and beyond, for any kind of organization that engages in hybrid organizing.