William Rockwell Torbert
Now Director of Research for Harthill Consulting UK and a convener of by-invitation Alchemists’ Workparties, Bill Torbert is also Professor of Management Emeritus at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, where, between 1978 and 2008, he served as the school’s Graduate Dean and Director of the PhD Program in Organizational Transformation. Within the academy, he served as Chair for the Organization Development & Change Division of the Academy of Management and on the Board of the Organization Behavior Teaching Society, as well as on the boards of numerous scholarly journals. Outside the academy, Torbert consulted widely (e.g. Odebrecht Construction [Brazil], Volvo and UBS Warburg [England], Lego [Denmark], Center for Creative Leadership [USA]) and served on the Boards of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Trillium Asset Management (the first and largest independent social investing advisor).
With regard to scholarship, Torbert is best known for his theories, cases, surveys, and lab and field experiments in regard to developmental transformation at both the personal and organizational levels, as well as within science itself, undergirded by an action research process exercised in real-time, everyday life, called “developmental action inquiry.” Unlike most purely third-person, analytic social science research, action inquiry integrates first-person, second-person, and third-person research/practice in real-time. His recent books include: 1) his national Alpha Sigma Nu award winning Managing the Corporate Dream (Dow Jones-Irwin, 1987); 2) his Terry Award Finalist book The Power of Balance: Transforming Self, Society, and Scientific Inquiry (Sage, 1991); 3) Transforming Social Inquiry, Transforming Social Action, coedited with Francine Sherman (Kluwer, 2000); and currently 4) ACTION INQUIRY: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership (Berrett-Koehler, 2004).
Torbert received a BA, magna cum laude, in Political Science & Economics and a PhD in Administrative Sciences from Yale University, holding a Danforth Graduate Fellowship during his graduate years. He taught at Yale, Southern Methodist University, and Harvard prior to joining the Boston College faculty in 1978. He won the Outstanding Professor Award at SMU in 1972, in 1989 won second place nationally as Distinguished Educator in OB, and in 1991 won the first Carroll School MBA Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award. Along with his friend Pat Canavan, Sr. VP of Motorola, he was the Distinguished Speaker for the ODC Division at the Academy of Management 2000 meeting. For his 2005 Harvard Business Review article “Seven Transformations of Leadership,” he won the Association of Executive Search Consultants research award. Most of all, though, he takes great pleasure and pride (not to mention occasional pain) in the ongoing development of his friends, his students, and his three sons, Michael, Patrick, and Benjamin.