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Remembering Professor Chris Argyris

Chris ArgyrisChris Argyris, a retired HGSE faculty member with 21 years of experience at the school, passed away on Saturday at the age of 90.

Argyris came to HGSE in 1971 as the James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and Organizational Behavior. He had appointments at both HGSE and the Harvard Business School. This dual appointment made him a popular professor at both schools. At the Ed School, he taught Introduction to Theory and Method of Consulting.

A highly influential management theorist, Argyris was widely regarded as the father of organizational learning. Crossing the boundaries of multiple disciplines with his theories of single-loop learning and action science, he was a proponent of successful organizations as “learning organizations.” He authored over 30 books and 150 articles, including Organization Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective, which he wrote with Donald Schon (1978); Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change (1993); and On Organizational Learning (1993).

“Chris Argyris will rightly be celebrated as a transformative thought-leader in the field of Organizational Development, and a mentor to two generations of professors and practitioners in the field. But I will always think of him, first and last, as a teacher,” said Professor Robert Kegan. “Whether he was shaking up a classroom, a faculty meeting, or just a casual encounter, Chris could not help himself. If there were an opportunity for learning — yours or his — he was not going to pass it up. And what Chris taught us all, is that there is nearly always an opportunity.”

Argyris earned his doctorate in organizational behavior from Kansas University in 1949. Before coming to Harvard, he spent 20 years at Yale University where he was instrumental in the creation of the Yale School of Management.

Following his retirement in 1992, he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Toronto (2006) and an honorary doctor of science from Yale University (2011).

Argyris is survived by his wife, Renee; his daughter, Dianne; his son, Phillip; and his brother, Peter.


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