Srikant M. Datar Appointed Harvard Business School Dean

The Dickinson professor of business administration succeeds Nitin Nohria.

Photo of Srikant M. Datar, dean-designate of Harvard Business School
Srikant M. Datar, dean-designate of Harvard Business SchoolCourtesy Harvard Business School.

SRIKANT M. DATAR, Dickinson professor of business administration and senior associate dean for University affairs at Harvard Business School (HBS), has been appointed dean, effective January 1, President Lawrence S. Bacow announced today. Datar succeeds Nitin Nohria, dean since 2010, who announced last November that he planned to step down at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, but then agreed to stay on through the end of this calendar year to help the school navigate through the pandemic (which, among other effects, has severely limited HBS’s executive-education programs, responsible for nearly a quarter-billion dollars in annual revenue). 

Datar continues in the HBS tradition of rising to the deanship from a prior leadership position as senior associate dean. This practice has given the school a deep bench of faculty members broadly experienced in its operations, alongside their own immersion in its distinctive case-teaching and field-immersion pedagogies and the accompanying research and scholarship. The news announcement notes that Datar, a member of the faculty since 1996, has held the senior associate dean posts for faculty recruiting, faculty development, education, research, and now University affairs (presumably including HBS’s engagement with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences [SEAS], which is about to begin moving much of its faculty and teaching to the new facility about to open across Western Avenue from the business school’s Allston campus).

In the announcement, Bacow said:

Srikant Datar is an innovative educator, a distinguished scholar, and a deeply experienced academic leader. He is a leading thinker about the future of business education, and he has recently played an essential role in HBS’s creative response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He has served with distinction in a range of leadership positions over his nearly 25 years at HBS, while also forging novel collaborations with other Harvard Schools. 

Srikant will come to the deanship with a broad international perspective, decades of close engagement with business practice, and a strong commitment to building an increasingly diverse and inclusive HBS community. He is also a warm, generous, and thoughtful colleague and mentor—someone whose leadership experience, intimate knowledge of HBS, deep devotion to the institution, and talent for catalyzing constructive change all promise to serve the School and the University well, at a pivotal moment for business education.

Datar is faculty chair of the Harvard Innovation Labs (i-lab). According to the announcement, he has been deeply involved in implementing HBS’s hybrid-teaching model for the pandemic this fall, making the school among the few parts of the University that have not moved entirely to remote instruction.

The coauthor of Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis, a leading text in its field, Datar describes his initial areas of research interest as including cost management and management control, strategy implementation and governance (see his HBS faculty profile). Of late, he has focused on management education, design thinking and innovative problem solving, and machine learning and artificial intelligence. He was coauthor, with colleague David A. Garvin and research associate Patrick G. Cullen, of Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads (2010), and has developed the new courses “Developing Mindsets for Innovative Problem Solving” and “Managing with Data Science.” (The latter has helped inform the planned University online courses on data science for general and executive education.) And he helped launched the M.S.-M.B.A. in biotechnology and life sciences (with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School) and the M.S.-M.B.A. in engineering sciences (with SEAS).

Datar will be the school’s eleventh dean. In the announcement, he said:

I am equal measures humbled and honored to take on this role. Harvard Business School is an institution with a remarkable legacy of impact in research, education, and practice. Yet the events of the past year have hastened our passage to an unforeseen future. I look forward to working with colleagues and friends of the School—including throughout Harvard, in our Boston community, and around the world—to realize our mission in what undoubtedly will be an exciting new era.

Of his successor, Nohria said in the news announcement:

Srikant is an outstanding choice as Harvard Business School’s next dean. He has thought deeply about the challenges and opportunities facing management education, and has a proven record of collaboration, innovation, and leadership—not only within HBS, but across Harvard and at other organizations. He is deeply respected for his judgment, admired for the genuine enthusiasm he brings to his research and teaching, and beloved as a colleague. I am confident, through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond, he will chart an inspired course for the School.

According to the announcement, Datar received his bachelor’s degree, with distinction, from the University of Bombay in 1973. A chartered accountant, he went on to receive a postgraduate diploma in business management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, before completing master’s degrees in statistics (1983) and economics (1984) and a Ph.D. in business (1985), all from Stanford. From 1984 to 1989, he was an assistant professor and then associate professor at the Carnegie Mellon Graduate School of Industrial Administration, where he was honored with the George Leland Bach Teaching Award. From 1989 to 1996, he served on the faculty of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he rose to become the Littlefield professor of accounting and management and was recognized with the school’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

He is faculty co-chair of the HBS Senior Executive Program-Africa, which was launched in 2016 and has offered executive programs in South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, and Mauritius, and serves on the governing body of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. In the private sector, he serves on the boards of directors of ICF International, Novartis AG, Stryker Corporation, and T-Mobile US. 

Bacow thanked Nohria for leading HBS “with such wisdom, integrity, and foresight for the past decade—and whose willingness to extend his deanship through the end of 2020 has done so much to help HBS and Harvard navigate these challenging times.” 








Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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