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Definition: Argyris, Chris (1923–) from The AMA Dictionary of Business and Management

American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a Thought Leader at Monitor Group. He is best known for his seminal work in the area of learning organizations. In his book Action Science (1985) he advocated solutions to practical problems by generating new knowledge. Other terms developed by Argyris includes actionable knowledge, ladder of inference, and double loop learning. His books include Flawed Advice and Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They are Getting Good Advice and When They Are Not (2000), On Organizational Learning (1993), and Personality and Organization: The Conflict Between the System and the Individual (1957).

Summary Article: Argyris, Chris(topher) (1923–2013)
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US psychologist and social scientist, who defined and promoted management theories and strategies for workplace learning and performance. His On Organizational Learning (1993), published with Donald Schon, made a lasting contribution to the concept of the learning organization. Appointed the James Bryant Conant professor emeritus of education and organizational behaviour at the Graduate School of Business, Harvard University, in 1971, Argyris also worked as a consultant to industry – notably for IBM, Shell, and Du Pont – as well as for government departments in the USA and Europe.

Argyris's original ‘immaturity–maturity theory’ argued that traditional management practices – close supervision and rigid channels of communication and job design – stifled motivation and often caused alienation, apathy, or even antagonism in the workforce. In Personality and Organization (1957) and Integrating the Individual and the Organization (1964), he advocated organizational change through ‘action research’ – a continual process of data gathering and diagnosis, planning, and evaluation with the involvement of employees. His later work developed the theory of ‘organizational learning’, which focused on the reasons for decision-making and not just behaviour as a basis for change.

Argyris said that real learning took place not simply when an organization refined its processes – what he called ‘single-loop learning’ – but when it refined its theories and assumptions about the way the world worked – what he called ‘double-loop learning’. He believed breakthroughs occurred when theories were overturned, updated, and replaced, and he challenged senior management inhibitions in another prominent work, Overcoming Organizational Defences (1990).

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Argyris was awarded a BA degree in psychology from Clark University in 1947, an MA degree in economics and psychology from Kansas University in 1949, and a PhD in organizational behaviour from Cornell University in 1951. Until he joined Harvard in 1971, he was a faculty member of Yale University where he was Beach professor of administrative sciences and later chair of the Administrative Sciences Department.


Argyris, Chris(topher)

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