John Van Maanen

Erwin H. Schell Professor of Organization Studies


John Van Maanen John Van Maanen is the Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management and a Professor of Organization Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

He works within the fields of organization behavior and theory. Van Maanen is an ethnographer of organizations ranging in type from police organizations to educational institutions, as well as a variety of business firms. Cultural descriptions figure prominently in his studies of such diverse work worlds as beat patrolmen on city streets in the United States; police detectives and their guv’nors in London; fishermen in the North Atlantic; MBA students at MIT and Harvard Business School, and park operatives in the Sistine Chapel of Fakery, Disneyland (here and abroad).

In addition, he has worked with numerous public and private organizations in North America, Europe, and Asia, including BP, IBM, BMW, Siemens, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Lafarge, Mars, Warburg Dillon Read, Sabanci University, and the National University of Technology (Singapore).

Van Maanen has taught at MIT Sloan since 1972. He has served as the faculty chair of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program at MIT and as the head of the Organization Studies Group within the Sloan School. He has been a Visiting Professor at Yale University, University of Surrey in the UK, INSEAD in France, and is an Honorary Fellow at Cambridge University.

He is the author of numerous books and articles, most recently, Tales of the Field (University of Chicago Press, 2011, 2nd edition). He and Edgar Schein recently coauthored Career Anchors (Wiley, 2013). Van Maanen has served on the editorial boards of a variety of journals, including Administrative Science Quarterly, Human Organizations, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Human Relations, and Studies in Cultures, Organizations, and Societies.

He is a member of the American Sociological Association, the American Anthropological Association, and a fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Van Maanen holds a BA in political science and sociology from California State University at Long Beach, and an MS and a PhD in social administration from the University of California, Irvine.

Faculty Media

  • [Innovation@Work Webinar] Three Perspectives on Organizational Change: More Answers

    There are many ways to describe an organization—as a machine, an organism, a community, a distributed intelligence, or even a battlefield. Watch the webinar to learn more.

  • [Innovation@Work Blog] Three Perspectives on Organizational Change: More Answers

    In this post, Professor Van Maanen responds to some questions from webinar attendees that were not addressed during the live event.

  • [Innovation@Work Blog] Coaching Millennials Has Its Hurdles...

    And it's time to get over them.

  • [Innovation@Work Blog] The Greater Boston Executive Program is Back!

    "I know of no other open enrollment executive course that fosters the amount of mutual learning over an extended period of time as the Greater Boston program," says John Van Maanen.

  • Indian Students Can Now Access IVY League Business Education, Courtesy EMERITUS Institute of Management

    “Using technology and curriculum innovation, EMERITUS opens doors for tens of thousands of Indian students who want to pursue a high-quality business education while continuing to work," says...

  • Teaching Leadership to Millennials? First, Get Used to Them

    Teaching leadership skills is critical in a changing world, MIT's John Van Maanen says, but coaching Millennials comes with unique challenges.

  • MIT, Tuck, Columbia Partner With Singapore Online Firm To Slash Cost Of Elite Management Education

    The executive education sections of MIT Sloan, Tuck Dartmouth, and Columbia Business School have become “founding” academic institutions in partnership with a closely held Singapore startup company...

  • Inside the Secretive World of Tax-Avoidance Experts

    A sociologist realized that if she were ever going to understand global inequality she would have to become one of the people who helps create it. So she trained to become a wealth manager to the...

  • Video: The Fad and Falderal of Leadership

    What's the difference between managing and leading? MIT's John Van Maanen weighs in.

  • Reflections and Lessons on Organization Studies

    How do ones personal and professional lives intersect and influence each other? What motivates employee performance? How can managers effectively navigate the occupational and ethnic subcultures...


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Three Perspectives on Organizational Change

There are many ways to describe an organization—as a machine, an organism, a community, a distributed intelligence, or even a battlefield. More than just a metaphor, the lens by which you view your own organization is very powerful and can affect your ability to lead organizational change. Watch the webinar to learn more.