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Professor Dot Griffiths

Professor Dot Griffiths(1969 - Present)
Dot Griffiths shares her memories of Professor Joan Woodward

Professor Dot Griffiths is Deputy Director of Tanaka Business School. She received a BSc in Sociology from the University of London, and an MSc in Sociology of Science and Technology from the University of Bath, joining imperial in 1969.

Professor Joan Woodward was a special woman who holds a place in the hearts of those that knew and worked with her.

She joined the Production Engineering and Management Section of the College in 1958 and became the second woman to hold a Chair at the College when she was appointed Professor of Industrial Sociology in 1970. Much of her most important work was published during her period at Imperial.

Her most famous work was a longitudinal study of 100 organisations begun before she joined Imperial College, completed at the College and published as Industrial Organisation: Theory and Practice (OUP, 1965). Her key and lasting insight was that technology is a key variable influencing organisational design and performance. Her sample of firms covered a range of manufacturing technologies and what she Joan Woodwarddemonstrated was that the successful firms were the ones where there was congruence between the type of technology they were using and their organisational structures and processes. Different technologies generated different requirements and the successful firms recognised this. It is a tribute to Joan that this insight which was so controversial in its time is now part of the ‘taken for granted’ world of the organisation theorist.

This work established Joan as one of the world’s foremost organisation theorists. She was invited to join a group of the top 7 theorists which called itself the Magnificent Seven. This international recognition was a huge achievement for a woman in the 1960’s.

Joan was much sought after as a consultant and a commentator. As such she epitomised the spirit of the College in its commitment to the application of ideas to practice. Unlike today where social science researchers sometimes struggle to find organisations to collaborate with, Joan had organisations contacting her and asking her to work with them.

Joan played a significant part in the development of my own career as she appointed me to the College. She was a wonderful role model at a time when there were few senior women. She was also a warm and generous human being. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, shortly before I joined the College and she bore her illness very bravely. When she died, tragically early aged 54, my colleagues and I and her many collaborators felt her loss acutely. In her memory we endowed under-graduate and post-graduate prizes and an annual memorial lecture.

Joan Woodward was a special woman who made not only an outstanding contribution to her field but also to the College. It was a privilege to have worked with her.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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