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  • 1.  On the Passing of Edgar Schein

    Posted 01-30-2023 23:13

    On the Passing of Edgar Schein


    With great sadness we inform you of the passing of Edgar H. Schein on January 26th, 2023.

    His son Peter Schein said "Ed passed away suddenly on Thursday evening.  He and I had just finished a work gig at about 5p and were chatting after and a few hours after that he passed away peacefully, no pain, no illness, no hospitalization. As he wanted it. Just a bit sudden for us…"

    Ed and his son Peter Schein

    Gervase Bushe wrote: "Ed was a giant who helped to create the field of organization development while a professor at MIT, along with Warren Bennis, Richard Beckhard and Doug McGregor.  One of the first books I read when entering the field in the mid 1970's was Bennis & Schein's Personal and Organizational Change Through Group Methods - considered an essential text for anyone training to lead T-groups.  He was one of the editors of the Addison-Wesley Series in OD, which helped to define and advance the field, and was the inspiration for the BMI Series in Dialogic OD.  Ed was a big supporter of my work on Dialogic OD, seeing it as a return to roots of the field, and while a tough critic, someone whose heart was in it as much as his head."

    Ed was also a gentleman, and a gentle man with people he knew and people he didn't.  At conferences and meetings, Ed was always eager to stop and speak with young practitioners, always asking what they were learning.  He was a frequent keynoter at the OD Network and featured at the Academy of Management.  He was a major presenter at NTL's 75th Anniversary Jubilee in the summer of 2022.  In each case, he was generous with his time and his thoughts.  In a recent conversation that he initiated about a series of webinars with  founders of the field, Ed was too "Humble" to mention his own name in the conversation, but of course, it is unthinkable to hold an event like that without him. 

    One of his first books is still one of his most popular, Career Anchors: Discovering Your Real Values, first published in 1985 and now in its 4th publication.  He has written dozens of books and articles, ranging from the lessons American managers can learn from Japanese management, to the culture of Singapore's Economics Development Board (1996), to The Clinical Perspective in Fieldwork (1987), to organizational learning (1996). 

    Ed wrote frequently about his consulting experiences, including DEC Is Dead:  Long Live DEC (2003) and his oft-cited story about confessing his ignorance during a process consulting engagement with the New York Times editorial board, which turned up the fact that there was no order or structure of priority to their meeting agenda, which contributed mightily to their dysfunction.

    The first of the two major themes of his lifelong writing centered on Cultures on Organizations: Three Perspectives (1994) and the several books and article related to that.  He was always curious and exploring the role of the consultant and the psychodynamics of the consulting relationship.

    His most recent writing has been in the "Humble" series, but its roots are in his earliest writing, Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development (1969), which clearly defined the differences between expert and process consulting, a concept that is still foundational to the work of OD consultants everywhereThose same questions are beautifully and elegantly explored in Humble Inquiry (2014), Humble Consulting (2016) Humble Leadership (2018) and the updated Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2021).  His last two books were cowritten with his son, Peter.

    Ed's many awards include the 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award from ASTD, the Hughes Award for Career Scholarship in 2000 from the Academy of Management, 2009 Distinguished Scholar-Practitioner Award from the Academy of Management, the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association, and two awards from the Organization Development Network: Members' Choice Award for 2004 Most Influential Books, and the Network's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

    Edgar Henry Schein was born on March 5, 1928 in Zurich and died at the age of 94.  He was a Professor of Management Emeritus at MIT Sloan School of Management, and is still listed on their website with an office, office hours, and a phone number.  He was a much beloved teacher, leader, author, mentor, and friend to many of all generations in OD and social psychology.  We will miss him dearly.

    Matt Minahan


    Edie Seashore and Ed Schien

    Edie Seashore and Ed Schein



    Ed Schein with AU/NTL Leadership in 2009

    2009 Leaders of the AU/NTL Program

    Fred Nader, Former President, NTL

    Neil Kirwan, Program Faculty and AU President

    Ed Schein

    Katherine Farquhar, AU/NTL Program Director

    Charlie Seashore, AU/NTL Faculty

    Edie Seashore, AU/NTL Co-Founder and Faculty

    Bob Marshak, AU Professor Emeritus

    Don Zauderer, Former Director, AU/NTL Program




    Schein, E. H. (1981). Does Japanese management style have a message for American managers?. Sloan Management Review (Pre-1986)23(1), 55.

    Schein, E. H. (1985). Career anchors. San Diego: University Associates.

    Schein, E. H. (1987). The clinical perspective in fieldwork. Sage Publications, Inc.

    Schein, E. H. (1994). Cultures in Organizations: Three Perspectives.

    Schein, E. H. (1996). Strategic Pragmatism: The Culture of Singapore's Economics Development Board. MIT Press.

    Schein, E. H. (1996). Organizational learning: What is new?

    Schein, E. H. (2014). Humble inquiry. Gildan Audio.

    Schein, E. H. (2016). Humble consulting: How to provide real help faster. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

    Schein, E. H., & Schein, P. A. (2018). Humble leadership: The power of relationships, openness, and trust. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

    Schein, E. H., & Schein, P. A. (2021). Humble inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


    Matt Minahan
    American University
    Edgewater MD
    (301) 625-0101

  • 2.  RE: On the Passing of Edgar Schein

    Posted 01-31-2023 08:55
    Thanks for sharing this Matt. With your permission, I'd like to share with my OD graduate students.

    Julie Bjorkman, PhD
    Benedictine University

    Julie Bjorkman
    Benedictine U
    Lisle IL
    (312) 307-4097

  • 3.  RE: On the Passing of Edgar Schein
    Best Answer

    Posted 01-31-2023 11:22
    Edited by Matt Minahan 01-31-2023 11:41
    Thank you for sharing this, Matt. Ed truly was a giant in our field, and was warm and generous with his time and talent throughout his life.

    Last Fall I taught an Honors Directed Reading course at my university, where about a dozen faculty members choose a book to read and discuss with a group of 4-8 honors students, who choose three books to discuss for about a month each. I chose Ed and Peter's revised version of Humble Inquiry, and he graciously joined us via Zoom in October to discuss the book and what the students had learned from it. His final question to them was "What should I write about next?" Ever learning and ever sharing. May we all follow his wonderful example.

    Here's a photo of Ed with the book that he shared with me in February 2022:

    Eric Sanders, PhD
    Assistant Professor & Associate Director MBA Program, Elmhurst University
    Past Chair, MC Division
    Peer Review Editor, Organization Development Journal
    +1 (630) 290-8097

  • 4.  RE: On the Passing of Edgar Schein

    Posted 01-31-2023 11:43
    Julie and all, yes, by all means, feel free to share the Ed Schein remembrance here.

    And, an all-class remembrance of Ed and his work seems like exactly the right thing to do today, Eric.  

    Love the picture of him, too.


    Matt Minahan
    American University
    Edgewater MD
    (301) 625-0101