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The passing of the “Poet Laureate of Management,” Peter B. Vaill (1936-2020)


I apologize for cross-listing, but Peter’s impact was very interdisciplinary. 

Sadly, I share the news of the loss of a seminal figure in organizational behavior, management education, management spirituality, and other fields. 

I’ll only sketch Peter’s career here and invite you to explore further, if you are interested. Peter was one of the "four horsepersons" who "saved" NTL (National Training Laboratoris) in the mid-1970s…. essentially launched the field of High Performing Systems in his Organizational Dynamics 1982 article …. coined the term "permanent white water" that caused a shift in OB research to more dynamic environments ….. was identified by his alum, the Harvard Business School as one of the top 10 organizational theorists in the world …. is profiled in The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers (2017) ….. was the editor of Organizational Dynamics from 1986-1989 … was a member of the Board of Governors of the Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, NC for a decade …. has been described as the "poet laureate of management," … and wrote several books including Managing as a Performing Art, Learning as a Way of Being: Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water, and Spirited Leading and Learning: Process Wisdom for a New Age.

For more information about Peter, please read “Peter B. Vaill: A Life in the Art of Managing and Leading Change” by David W. Jamieson and Jackie M. Milbrandt in The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers edited by David B. Szabla, William A. Pasmore, Mary A. Barnes, and Asha N. Gipson.

Peter’s life was also an inspiration because he was paralyzed from the waist down since 2001. This greatly reduced his scholarship, but he was active until his last days with a regular podcast with friend and colleague Dave Fearon. You can hear these podcasts at:   The one at the bottom is the tribute honoring Peter. 

Finally, you can read my own personal eulogy at