Paul C. Nutt

Paul C. Nutt 

Paul C. Nutt is Professor Emeritus of Management Sciences in the Fisher college of Business at The Ohio State University and Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Strathclyde. Professor Nutt is a Fellow of the Decision Sciences Institute and a Charter Member of the Academy of Management’s Hall of Fame. He has written over 150 articles and 8 books. His research and teaching has received numerous awards. They include two innovative teaching awards and four research awards (two for best theoretical/empirical paper) from DSI, four Emerald Citations for best annual business article, Fisher College of Business Pace Setter awards for both research and teaching, two best paper and a best book award from the Academy of Management, and awards from the American College of Health Care Executives and IFORMS. He was elected to Sigma Xi and as an honorary member of Alpha Iota Delta. In addition to academic journals, his work has appeared in the Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company Magazine, and NPR/PRI’s Marketplace. Widely cited books include Handbook of Decision Making for Wiley in 2010,  Why Decisions Fail for Berrett-Koehler in 2002, The Strategic Management of Public and Third Sector Organizations in 1992 and  Making Tough Decisions in 1990, both for Jossey-Bass. His books and papers have been translated into several languages.



Professor Nutt received a BSE and MSE in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan and, beginning in 1963, worked for more than a decade as an engineer and a planning director. He is a registered Professional Engineer. He completed his PhD at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in Industrial Engineering in 1974 and joined the facility of Hospital and Health Services Program at The Ohio State University with joint appointments in Management Science, Industrial and System Engineering, and Public Policy and Management. He was instrumental in shaping the research and teaching programs of HHSA during this period, being tenured in 1978 and promoted to full professor in 1982. He joined the Management Science Department full time in 1990. Professor Nutt has also taught at the London Business School, the Norwegian School of Management, University of Cardiff, and Santa Clara University. He regularly provides executive education for public, private, and non-profit organizations. He consults for NSF, NIH, NIMH, several firms, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, clinics, hospitals, and health planning agencies, state departments of health, mental health, and education, hospital associations, state medical societies, Boards of Regents, Governor's staff, and the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. His research has been funded by a number of these organizations. Professor Nutt maintains an active research program and continues to serve on several editorial review boards.



Research Streams


Professor Nutt’s research has two active streams: decision making and transformation. He has written extensively on both topics.


The decision making research began four decades ago. Currently, this steam is motivated by questions about what prompts success and failure.  Both outcomes pose questions. Is failure caused by bad luck or by faulty decision making practices? Are there other practices more apt to succeed? A series of studies were carried out to find answers to such questions. The work uncovered how key people in organizations go about decision-making and the success realized. To date, four hundred and thirteen decisions have been profiled, making it the largest database of its kind. The database contains decision maker actions, documented using qualitative methods, and outcomes and contextual factors.  Its size allows statistical analyses to connect decision making practices to outcomes while accounting for the situation being confronted. Decision-making practices were appraised according to the results realized, accounting for content and context, identifying best practices and practices to avoid. The cases also provide a rich understanding of decisions, both successful and unsuccessful, offering a first hand account of events and circumstances. This has allowed in-depth probes into why some practices work and others go awry, offering recommendations to improve decision making practice.


A series of articles have been published, drawing from this database. (Selected publications are appended.) Key findings identified the magnitude of failure and insights into the causes of failure. Failed decisions were shown to be more of a commonplace event in the organizations than previously suspected. Failure plagued both the best and brightest and the more novice manager, working in more and less successful organizations. Some of the decisions were discarded before an implementation attempt, others after intensive but fruitless effort. Both resulted in wasted resources and forgone benefits. This prompted efforts to document what prompted failure, and how to avoid it. Subsequent investigations found that decision makers were not at the mercy of the situation being confronted. The practices followed had far more influence on success than abrupt changes in customer tastes, the cost of money, draconian regulations, and other situational constraints that erect barriers and pose difficulties. Some decision making practices produce good results and others poor results. Success rates doubles when decision makers follow best practices. Subsequent publications documented how to increase the chance of success. This research is ongoing with several projects underway to further exploit the decision database and write up case studies.


Several other decision related studies have been carried out including: documenting and investigating decision maker style, exploring repeating decisions (such as regulatory decisions) using discriminate analysis, developing several prescriptive models, devising a decision analysis approach to documents risk, and exploring the ramifications of ethics and learning on decision making.


A second active research stream involves transformation. Here attempts have been made to define and operationalize the concept of radical change as well as what is required to realize such a result. This has prompted several projects, including a current effort to document how organizations transform and de-develop. That is how organizations grow or decline in an orderly fashion while preserving or growing core competencies. A 16-year project with the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) provides an illustration. The study developed two sources of data, derived from an unprecedented access to the actions of its CEO of ODMH over the sixteen year period. The first data set provides a listing of CEO actions in weekly reports written by the CEO to the Governor of the state of Ohio. The second is monthly interviews with the ODMH CEO. The databases were combined to document (among other things) the actions taken to downsize, and their success, and then transformation initiatives. Each initiative’s intensity, duration, action target, focus (e.g., services and channel types), planned or not, and the governor’s involvement were documented. Several research questions are being considered. What is required to carry out successful de-developmental and transformational efforts, and how long does each take? Can morale destruction, the erosion of capacity, and other negative effects be avoided? How do transformation and de-development mirror one another? Several publications have been completed and more are planned.


This stream has produced a number of articles addressing ways to craft vision, how transformation and de-development are related as well as prescriptive models that show how each can be carried out, the link of transformation with strategic management, ways to lead strategic change, defining strategy types that can be matched to environments found in public and third-sector organizations, showing how strategic issues can be conceptualized as tension and how to manage the tension to create strategy, and developing models that predict when and under what circumstances organizations can radically change. Emphasis was placed on change in departments of state governments, which is seldom considered in the literature. (See the selected publications.)


Other research streams have considered health care policy, issues in mental health, qualitative and quantitative research methods, how to study processes, the strategic management of public and third-sector organizations, planned change, research methods, and statistical evaluation approaches.






Professor Nutt’s teaching has been devoted to strategic management, decision making, transformation and radical change, reengineering, leadership, international business, public policy analysis, research methods, evaluation methods, and health care policy. Classes have been offered as core courses in the Fisher College’s PhD, MBA, and undergraduate business programs, core courses in the MHA and MPA programs, as electives in the MBA, MHA, and MPA  programs, and as core courses in several other departmental PhD programs. Also offered is an honors class in the Strategic Management of Emerging Markets that provided a funded field trip to study firms a foreign country with an emerging market, such as Mexico. This class has won two awards for innovative teaching.   






Professor Nutt has extensive university service with two elective terms in the University Senate, elected as chair of OSU’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, served as DS program Chair, and chaired the promotion and tenure committees of several departments. His national service includes Division Chair for the Academy of Management and Chair of the Fellows committee for DSI. He has also served as program chair for the Academy of Management, IFORMS, and DSI as well as program chair for the first Design Conference sponsored by NSF.  He also has extensive service on editorial review board including: International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, International Journal of Organizational Theory and Behavior, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Associate Editor, International Journal of Business, Academy of Management Review (three terms), and as Senior Editor for Organization Science and Management Science.




Twenty Key publications


  1. Nutt P.C. and Wilson, D.C., “Toward a Unified Theory of Decision Making”, in (Nutt. P.C. and Wilson D.C., eds.), Handbook of Decision Making, Wiley, 2010.


2.    Nutt, P.C., “Investigating Decision Making Processes”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2008, 425-455.


3.    Nutt, P.C., “Assessing Downsizing Guidelines with an Exemplar: The Ohio Department of Mental Health Success Story”, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 43, No. 3, 2007, 373-395.


4.    Nutt, P.C.,”Organizational De-development”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 41, No. 7, 2004, 1083-1103. (Best paper, Academy of Management, ODC Division, 1999)


5.    Nutt, P.C., “Implications for Organizational Change in the Structure Process Duality”, Research in Organizational Change and Development, JAI Press, 2003, Vol. 14,147-194.


6.    Nutt, P.C., “Surprising but True: Half of Organizational Decisions Fail”, Academy of  Management Executive, 13 (4), 1999, 75-90. (Finalist for best publication in 1999)


7.    Nutt, P.C., “Evaluating Complex Strategic Choices, Management Science, 44 (8), 1998, 1148-1166.


8.    Nutt, P.C., Framing Strategic Decisions, Organization Science, 1998, 9 (2), 195-  206.(Emerald citation, 1998)


9.    Nutt, P.C. and Backoff, R.W., “Crafting Vision,” Journal of Management Inquiry, 6 (4), 1997, 308-328.


10.  Nutt, P.C. and Backoff, R.W., Organizational Transformation, Journal of Management Inquiry 6 (3), 1997, 235-254. (Emerald Citation, 1998)


11.  Nutt, P.C., "The Identification of Solution Ideas During Organizational Decision Making," Management Science, 39 (9), 1993, 1071-1085.


12.  Nutt, P.C., "The Formulation Processes and Tactics Used in Organizational Decision Making," Organization Science, 4 (2), 1993, 226-251 (FACHE, Management Research Award).


13.  Nutt, P.C., "Flexible Styles of Decision Making and the Choices of Top Executives," Journal of Management Studies, 30 (5), 1993, 695-772.


14.  Nutt, P.C. and Backoff, R.W., "Strategic Issues as Tensions," The Journal of Manage­ment Inquiry, 1993, 2 (1), 28-43.


15.  Nutt, P.C., "Formulation Tactics and the Success of Organizational Decision Making," Decision Sciences 23 (5), 1992, pp. 519-540, (Best theoretical/empirical paper, 1988, Decision Science Institute).


16.  Nutt, P.C., "Identifying and Appraising How Managers Install Strategic Changes," Strategic Management Journal, 1987, 8 (1), 1-14.


17.  Nutt, P.C., "The Tactics of Implementation," Academy of Management Journal, 1986, 29 (2), 230-261.


18.  Nutt, P.C., "Types of Organizational Decision Processes," Administrative Science Quarterly, 1984, 29 (3), 414-450.


19.  Nutt, P.C., "Calling Out and Calling Off the Dogs: Managerial Diagnosis in Organizations," Academy of Management Review, 1979, 4 (2), 203-214.


20.  Nutt, P.C., "An Experimental Comparison of Three Planning Procedures," Management Science, 1977, 23 (4), 499-511.  (Institute of Management Science, Paper award)

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