Supervisor: Professor Kevin Morrell


The conventional picture of strategy is that companies should pursue ‘sustainable competitive advantage’ - to outcompete by creating a bundle of resources and capabilities that are valuable and rare and that can’t be copied or easily substituted. But in many industries now there isn’t the prospect of sustainable advantage because there are so many significant drivers of change. Instead, perhaps we are in an era of ‘temporary advantage’, where managing change is itself is a core capability. Drivers of change include COVID-19 of course, but there will be shocks caused by technologies such as: machine learning or AI, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Internet of Things, 3D printing, Blockchain. Then there are going to be huge changes to respond to Climate challenges. Given this there is a need for senior executives and Boards to be able to learn how to react to large scale changes.

Research Area

This (full-time) PhD project will inform our understanding of transformational strategy. Transformational strategy involves steering organizations through change – where this change is characterised by scale (many stakeholders are affected) scope (it impacts on many parts of the business) and speed (it unfolds quickly). This is not fine tuning, it is fundamental rethinking of a business and the project should help Boards of Directors with decision making in this context. 

Indicative Reading

Bartunek, J.M. & Moch, M,K. (1987). First-Order, Second-Order, and Third-Order Change and Organization Development Interventions: A Cognitive Approach. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 23(4). Pp. 483-500.

Berkhout, F., Hertin, J. & Gann, D.M. (2006). Learning to Adapt: Organisational Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts. Climate Change, 78. Pp. 135-156.

Burnes, B. (2017). Managing Change. 7th Edition. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Limited.

By, R.T. (2005). Organisational change management: A critical review. Journal of Change Management, 5(4). Pp. 369-380.

Chapman, J. A. (2002). A Framework for Transformational Change in Organisations. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 23(1). Pp. 16-25.

Doyle, M. (2002). Selecting managers for transformational change. Human Resource Management Journal, 12(1).

Dunphy, D., & Stace, D. (1993). The strategic management of corporate change. Human Relations, 46, 905-919.

Ferguson, B.C., Brown, R.R. & Deletic, A. (2011). Diagnosing transformative change in urban water systems: Theories and Frameworks. Global Environmental Change, 23. Pp. 264-280.

Fischer, H.M. & Pollock, T.G. (2004). Effects of Social Capital and Power on Surviving Transformational Change: The Case of Initial Public Offerings. Academy of Management, Journal 47(4). Pp. 463-481.

Kanter, R.M., Stein, B.A. & Jick, T.D. (1992). The Challenge of Organizational Change. Free Press: New York.

Kindler, H. (1979). Two Planning Strategies: Incremental Change and Transformational Change. Group & Organization Studies, 4(4). Pp. 476-484.

Nadler, D. A. (1982). Managing transitions to uncertain future states. Organizational Dynamics, 11, 37-45.

Nutt, P.S. & Backoff, R.W. (1997). Facilitating Transformational Change. Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 33(4). Pp. 490-508.

Pettigrew, A.M., R.W. Woodman and K.S. Cameron. 2001. ‘Studying Organizational Change and Development: Challenges for Future Research’, Academy of Management Journal, 44, 4, 697–713.

Robinson, O. & Griffiths, A. (2005). Coping with the Stress of Transformational Change in a Government Department. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(2). Pp. 204-221.

Termeer, C.J.A.M., Dewulf, A. & Biesbroek, R. (2017). Transformational change: governance interventions for climate change adaption from a continuous change perspective. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 60(4). Pp. 558-576.

Candidate Profile

It is not necessary to have a specific background in strategy although a keen interest in business and management is essential and this would suit someone who aspires to a career as a professional academic researcher in business and management. The research could draw on qualitative or quantitative data and in terms of context the empirical research could be based in the private, public or third sectors. Applicants from the social sciences (particularly anthropology, politics and sociology) and the humanities (particularly history and philosophy) are welcome. Strong applicants will be able to share evidence of: (i) a track record of creative, unconventional thinking, combined with (ii) an ability to complete substantial written projects to an exceptional standard. Applications from black and minority ethnic candidates are particularly welcome because these groups are under-represented both in academia and Boards of Directors.

Please include a detailed academic CV and outline proposal with any enquiry. Remember to check first that you meet the entry requirements for the PhD programme in full – all PhD applicants must hold a first or upper second class UK Bachelor’s degree and a taught Master’s degree, or equivalent international qualifications (you can find out whether your qualifications meet our requirements by visiting our International Student page). Please note this is for candidates wanting to study full-time and, as with the other programmes on these pages, this does not have funding attached to it.

Contact Details

Professor Kevin Morrell