Dr Michael Butler

Work & Organisational Psychology Group

Michael Butler

I am a Reader in Transformational Change, Director of the Aston Centre for People and Organisations (ACPO), and Founder and Director of The TRANSFORMATION Project. I'm a multidisciplinary researcher, who has continuously worked in top-ranked UK business and management schools. My research interests focus on change management, specifically, adapting promising management practices to enhance performance across varied organisational contexts, contributing to ideas about receptivity for change, knowledge exchange and project-based organisations.

Role: Work & Org Psychology Business Partnership and Community Engagement Convenor
Position: Reader in Transformational Change 
Phone: +44(0)121 204 3053
Email: m.j.r.butler@aston.ac.uk
Room: SW8023 
LinkedIn profile   

  • 2000 PhD Management, Centre for Creativity, Strategy and Change, Warwick Business School, UK
  • 1988 BA (Hons.) History, University of Durham, UK
  • 1985 Certificate in Field Archaeology, University of London, UK


  • Reader in Transformational Change, Aston Business School. (February 1, 2012 - Present)
  • Senior Lecturer, Aston Business School. (2008 - January 31, 2012)
  • Lecturer, Aston Business School. (2003 - 2008)
  • Lecturer, Cranfield School of Management. (2000 - 2003)


  • Non-Executive Director and Chair, Beyond Engagement. (2008 - Present)
  • Management Consultant, Dunelm Management Consultants. (1991 - 2000)
  • Part-Time Lecturer, Social and Life Skills, City College Manchester. (1993 - 1994)
  • Part-Time Lecturer, Warrington Collegiate Institute. (1988 - 1992)
  • Management Consultant, Salford University Business Services Limited. (1989 - 1991)
  • Research Officer, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. (1988 - 1989)

  • BH1109 – International Perspectives in Organisations (Single Module) (1st year ie all 600 Single Honours Business)
  • BH2296 – Strategy for Future Leaders (Double Module)  (2nd year Single Honours Business)
  • BPM761 – Creative Decisions for Effective Change (Single Module) (MBA Elective) (Second Marking and Strategic Advice)
  • MSc Dissertation and Research Student Supervision

Academic Research informing Business Engagement facilitating Knowledge Exchange

I am a Reader in Transformational Change, Director of the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) Programme, Director of the Centre for Innovation, Change and Renewal (CICR), and Founder and Director of The TRANSFORMATION Project. I’m a multi-disciplinary researcher, who has continuously worked in top-ranked UK business and management schools. My research interests focus on change management, specifically, adapting promising management practices to enhance performance across varied organisational contexts, contributing to ideas about receptivity for change, knowledge exchange and project-based organisations.

The research is recognised by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), producing one of the Top Five Management Articles of 2012. The initiative recognises relevant, accessible academic writing and takes it to a wider audience of practising managers. It is a collaboration with the British Academy of Management, the Advanced Institute of Management Research, the Association of Business Schools, the British Library and is sponsored by John Wiley and Sons Ltd, one of the world’s leading business publishers. Following the success of the article, I was invited to contribute to the CMI’s Practitioner Member Panel and am a founding member of the CMI Faculty.
The TRANSFORMATION Project has been identified by the ESRC as a Good Practice Case Study in 2013.

From my international research (post PhD), I have developed the Butler Receptivity for Change Model. The five factor model reveals what makes organisations high performing. An early adopter of the Model was the OECD which analysed six EU governments to explore the management of change produced by the introduction of major reform initiatives intended to transform the administrative culture of the public service to make it more efficient and effective (translated into Chinese). I have carried on this stream of work by researching Roma social exclusion in Romania (the Economist recently called this the EU’s greatest social problem).

The TRANSFORMATION Project – ESRC Good Practice Case Study

  • The TRANSFORMATION Project – LinkedIn

  • TRANSFORMATIONFilm’s Channel – YouTube

Follow-on research has won funding from national competitions e.g. the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for The TRANSFORMATION Project, which involves translating existing academic theory into practitioner management tools by working with Catalyst Education (Birmingham Local Education Partnership), Echo Managed Services, NHS Warwickshire, Playgroup (a London advertising agency), Warwickshire Police, Associated British Foods plc, DHL Supply Chain and the Association for Project Management.

Two case studies are accepted into the British Academy of Management (BAM)/Chartered Management Initiative/Wiley Top Management Article series showcasing university/business knowledge exchange eg. 

The TRANSFORMATION Project is being extended into the British Sugar Group and non-government organisations (NGOs). Specifically, in addition to our work with the Roma, we are using receptivity to explore innovation and growth of organisations in the sustainable energy sector in India. Part of this work is funded by an ESRC CASE Award.

Because of the success of The TRANSFORMATION Project, I have taken over the Directorship of the Institute of Health Services Effectiveness (IHSE) and redesigned it to become the Centre for Innovation, Change and Renewal (CICR). I have two direct reports (two senior research fellows, SRFs) and affiliated faculty colleagues and research students. This enables me to apply the learning from the Project to build capacity within CICR and deliver world leading research with impact for practice by improving current thinking and models of organisational change.

I am supporting Dr Matthew Carter to produce one of Aston Business School’s Impact Case Studies for the REF 2014 submission based on work from IHSE (REF is explained below).

Research Leadership Performance

From having no research income, CICR have now won research grants to the value of £172, 880 and have bid for more research grants to the value of £969,276.

Drs. John Blewitt and Michael Butler are involved in a major event on 19 June – “Who cares wins: corporate social responsibility in the West Midlands”. It is co-run with the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA) and the Institute of Directors (IoD).  For more information visit:  http://www1.aston.ac.uk/aston-business-school/events/csr-in-the-west-midlands/.

The TRANSFORMATION Project continues to:

  • develop evidence (research)-based management tools for performance improvement
  • understand the theory underpinning innovation, change and renewal for change and project management practice
  • co-produce with our project partners returns on investment using action research as a specific research method
  • partner with Cranfield School of Management to understand how winners of the Best Factory Awards sustain continuous improvement
  • begin working with SMEs through ‘Transformation for Growth’

Organisational Cognitive Neuroscience

Underpinning change are strategic decision-making processes influenced by our human nature.  These deep processes reveal the biological underpinnings of organisational behaviour, investigated through Organisational Cognitive Neuroscience (OCN) (co-founder of the idea). A positioning article has been published in Organisation Science, followed by an empirical piece in Personality and Individual Differences. The team has co-edited a Leadership Quarterly special issue and contributed to an emerging debate in the Journal of Management on OCN. All four are leading business and management journals, developing earlier published work in psychology journals with high impact factors and an edited book with the New York Academy of Sciences. CICR:

  • develops the field of OCN
  • applies OCN to CICR and The TRANSFORMATION Project eg by contributing to the UK government’s ‘nudge’ agenda and behaviour change in organisations

Directing CICR facilitates this agenda and I am currently writing grant submissions.

Academic Research informing Learning and Teaching

Research findings and insights are used in all my learning and teaching. Students at all levels are encouraged to participate in research to embed independent learning, critical thinking and employability skills.  This has led to institutional and national-level awards.

Research Management Performance

Since becoming DBA Director:

  • student acceptances of well qualified candidates have nearly doubled
  • despite programme growth, it is managed within existing budgets
  • through the AMBA DBA Consortium for International DBA Directors, I am leading the identification of outstanding international practice and showcasing examples of how business schools achieved that practice to share innovation

Future PhD Students and Researchers

I am continuously looking to recruit excellently qualified, highly motivated and globally–oriented PhD students and researchers with, preferably, some practice experience, perhaps at managerial level, who can contribute to my research agenda in innovation, change and renewal, especially The TRANSFORMATION Project and OCN.

  • 2012 – 2013 (PI) £3000, ESRC EREBUS Research Voucher, ‘Improving Customer Care in South Staffordshire plc Group    Services IT – Using The Receptivity for Change Toolset to Drive and Track Change’

  • 2011-2014 (PI)   £71,627, ESRC CASE Award, 'The GREEN ENERGY Project - Evaluating Top Project Team Formation and Development for Business Transformation and Profitability at British Sugar', will extend The Receptivity for Change Toolset created as part of the previous ESRC grant

  • 2009-2011 (PI)   £124,000, ESRC, ‘The TRANSFORMATION Project – Transferring Knowledge to Transform Project Management Practice’, a follow-on grant using contemporary management theory to create practical management tools for performance improvement

  • 2009-2011 (PI)   £5850, The Aston Centre for Critical Infrastructure and Services (ACCIS), ‘The ROMA Project - Transferring change and project management knowledge to transform UK and Romanian NGO performance’, primer grant to facilitate full ESRC grant submission

  • 2009-2010 (PI) £10,450, short KTP, ‘The Echo Project – Improving Project Management Change Capability’, applying receptivity for change to improve project management practice

  • 2009-2010 (PI) £3000, Innovation Voucher, ‘Improving Headhunting Services’, working with Soloman Services Limited

  • 2008-2011 (PI)   £10,000, Aston University, ‘Students’ Approaches to Study: The Influence of Learner Personality and Teaching Style’, international comparative analysis of the impact of teaching styles on learners (UK and India), funded by Centre for Learning Innovation and Professional Practice (CLIPP)

  • 2008-2010 (PI)   £2500, Salford University, ‘Assessing the Impact of Lecturers who have High Student Ratings on Executive Approaches to Study’, to innovate in HE learning and teaching

  • 2008-2010 (PI) £1000, University Forum for Human Resource Development, ‘Students’ Approaches to Study’, only 5 awarded in the UK

  • 2005-2007 (PI)   £5000, Aston University, ‘Improving Management Education by Exploring Storytelling and Imagination’, collaboration with Harvard Business School

  • 2003-2005 (PI)   £15,000, Vauxhall Motors, ‘Downsizing in the Motor Industry’, Case Study of General Motors

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 is a peer review process to assess the quality of research activity at eligible UK Higher Education Institutions with reference to international research quality standards. 4 academic journal articles are submitted and the world leading articles score 4 – total possible score is 16, and is divided by 4. Measured by The Association of Business School ranking, my Grade Point Average is 3.75 (out of 4).

Journal Articles (within current REF period)



  • The TRANSFORMATION Project is being used by the ESRC in 2013 as a good practice case study for co-production action research, and for demonstrating measurable impact leading to cost savings for a local police force as it improves community safety.  It will be available in video and written formats, as is mentioned in the ESRC’s Society Now magazine.

  • The Vauxhall Motors (part of GM group) case study is recognised by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) as producing one of the Top Five Management Articles of 2012.

  • Previously, the work on self organising (complex) systems in local government was nominated for The Warwick Prize for Writing.

  • Editorial Boards, International Journal of Complex Governance Networks (from 2012) and Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration (from 2009)

Business Engagement

  • 2012 to date      Member, Executive Development Committee, The Association of Business Schools (ABS)

  • 2012 to date      Member, International DBA Consortium, AMBA (Association of MBAs)

  • 2010 to date      Official Member, EIRMA (European Industrial Research Management Association)

  • 2008 to date      Non-Executive Director/Chair (Unpaid), Beyond Engagement, London, UK

  • Feature regularly in international media (including the BBC)

  • Contributed to a Central Office of Information (COI) review, a central government department which reports to the Cabinet Office Minister, on improving policy making and implementation via ‘Behaviour Change in Organisations’, drawing on research findings from The TRANSFORMATION Project

Learning and Teaching

  • 2012 to date       Higher Education Academy (HEA) Associate (national level award)

  • 2011                  Invited Member, Fellows Forum, Bushiness, Management, Accounting and Finance (BMAF)                     subject network, HEA – teaching excellence group supporting teaching throughout HE community (national level award)

  • 2009                 Beta Gamma Sigma, Aston University Chapter (international level award)

  • 2008 – 2010      CAMPUS Teaching and Learning Fellowship, Salford University, UK (national level award)

  • 2007                 Aston Business School Excellence in Teaching Award (school level award)

  • 2005                 Aston Excellence in Teaching Award (university level award)

Executive Development and Training

  • Consult on organization development (OD) and policy processes (eg General Motors and the Cabinet Office)

  • Part of my OD work utilises my award-winning research outputs which has created new and innovative change and project management processes and toolsets eg The Receptivity for Change Toolset

  • Works with the Centre for Executive Development, Aston Business School