Thomas A. Kochan

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Thomas Anton Kochan (born September 28, 1947) is an American organizational theorist and Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, specialized in industrial relations, work and employment.


  • American corporations often say human resources are their most important asset. In our national discourse, everyone talks about jobs. Yet as a society we somehow tolerate persistent high unemployment, 30 years of stagnating wages and growing wage inequality, two decades of declining job satisfaction and loss of pension and retirement benefits, and continuous challenges from the consequences of unemployment on family life. If we really valued work and human resources, we would address these problems with the vigor required to solve them.
    • Thomas A. Kochan in: "An interview with Thomas A. Kochan," in: Harvard Magazine, Sept. 2012. online at

The transformation of American industrial relations, 1986


Thomas A. Kochan, Harry Charles Katz, and Robert B. McKersie. The transformation of American industrial relations. Cornell University Press, 1986.

  • Our central argument is that industrial relations practices and outcomes are shaped by the interactions of environmental forces along with the strategic choices and values of American managers, union leaders, workers and public policy decision makers.
    • p. 5
  • A critical aspect of the operation of the New Deal system was the long history of incremental change and resistance to more fundamental modification. This incremental adjustment orientation was apparent in government policy, managerial practice, and union bargaining objectives.
    • p. 45
  • The workplace changes being introduced jointly have two basic objectives: (1) to increase the participation and involvement of individuals and informal groups work so as to overcome adversarial relations and increase employee motivation, commitment, and problem-solving potential; and (2) to alter the organization of work so as to simplify work rules, lower costs, and increase flexibility in the management of human resources.
    • p. 147

The mutual gains enterprise, 1994


Thomas A. Kochan and Paul Osterman.The mutual gains enterprise: Forging a winning partnership among labor, management, and government. Harvard Business Press, 1994.

  • Unions are an essential part of the democratic fabric of society, but they are not necessarily desirable or acceptable `in my firm or on my property.
    • p. 15
  • Employee participation cannot and will not be divorced from other human resource practices and organisational strategies. The implication of this argument is that we need to look at the total set of organisational strategies and assess their effects on performance.
    • p. 64
  • The importance of top management commitment to organizational change is so well accepted that it is almost cliché to repeat the fact. We would therefore expect managerial values to be just as important in this area as in others that require strategic direction and leadership.
    • p. 97
  • Democratically elected worker representatives cannot get away with symbolic or partially diffused innovations; they will be thrown out of office. They will demand that the program be 39 either abandoned or institutionalized and spread to cover more of their constituents
    • p. 218

"Beyond McGregor’s Theory Y", 2002


Thomas Kochan, Wanda Orlikowski, and Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld. "Beyond McGregor's theory Y: Human capital and knowledge-based work in the 21st century organization." Prepared for the Sloan School 50th Anniversary Session on October 11 (2002): 2002;

  • Nearly fifty years ago... Douglas McGregor launched a debate over how to manage The Human Side of the Enterprise. By comparing what he called Theory X and Theory Y perspectives, he challenged the management profession to reexamine its assumptions about the motivations employees bring to their jobs. The question was: Could employees be trusted and empowered to do good work, or did they have to be closely directed, monitored, and controlled to act in the interests of the firm? While McGregor’s Theory Y sparked important innovations in human resource practices, it did not challenge fundamental assumptions underpinning the 20th Century organizational model. If, as is widely recognized, human capital and knowledge are the most important sources of value for the 21st Century organization, then fundamental assumptions about the relationship between work and organizations will also need to be challenged.
    • p. 2: introduction
  • The approach that dominates organizational theory, teaching, and practice for most of the twentieth century looked at organizations from the top-down, starting with a view of the CEO as the "leader" who shapes the organization's strategy, structure, culture, and performance potential. The nature of work and the role of the workforce enter the analysis much later, after considerations of technology and organization design have been considered. However, if the key source of value in the twenty-first-century organization is to be derived from the workforce itself, an inversion of the dominant approach will be needed. The new perspective will start not at the top of the organization, but at but at the front lines, with people and the work itself — which is where value is created. Such an inversion will lead to a transformation in the management and organization of work workers, and knowledge.
    • p. 2: introduction; Republished in: Douglas McGregor. The Human Side of Enterprise 1960/2006. p. 366
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