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Journal of Management Inquiry
DOI: 10.1177/1056492604270796
2004; 13; 312 Journal of Management Inquiry
David Buchanan and Andrzej Huczynski
Images of Influence: 12 Angry Men and Thirteen Days
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10.1177/1056492604270796 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / December 2004 Buchanan, Huczynski / IMAGES OF INFLUENCE
Images of Influence
12 Angry Men and Thirteen Days
De Montfort University Leicester
University of Glasgow
Whereas films are widely used as instructional tools, applications tend to be under-
theorized, limited to illustrating ideas and motivating students. Our perspective draws
on narrative theory, organizational representation, and processual theory, to develop an
approach to the critical interrogation of film as thesis. Film selection criteria are identi-
fied, and two films are considered: 12 Angry Men and Thirteen Days. These films
advance a thesis concerning interpersonal influence and decision making. Research-
based accounts of influence are decontextualized, dyadic, episodic, apolitical, and practi-
cal. These films depict interpersonal influence as a multi-layered phenomenon, shaped by
contextual, temporal, processual, social, political and emotional factors. Rather than pre-
senting a trivialized, sensationalized, glamorous account, these films demonstrate the
complex integration of issues typically covered discretely by mainstream texts.
Keywords: influencing; decision making; narrative methods; film analysis; process
If accuracy is nice but not necessary in sensemaking,
then what is necessary? The answer is, something that
preserves plausibility and coherence, something that
is reasonable and memorable, something that em-
bodies past experience and expectations, something
which resonates with other people, something that
can be constructed retrospectively but also can be
usedprospectively, something that captures bothfeel-
ing andthought, something that allows for embellish-
ment to fit current oddities, something that is fun to
contrast. In short, what is necessary in sensemaking is
a good story. (Weick, 1995, pp. 60-61)
This article advocates the promotion of feature film
analysis, from the entertaining sidelines of classroom
gimmick to mainstream organization theory. This ad-
vocacy has four main elements. First, we argue that

JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY, Vol. 13 No. 4, December 2004 312-323
DOI: 10.1177/1056492604270796
2004 Sage Publications
2004 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
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although pedagogical applications of filmare well es-
tablished, they have been undertheorized, focusing
on the valuable but limited aims of concept illus-
tration and student arousal. Second, developments
in narrative theory, organization representation, and
process theorizing, collectively demonstrate hownar-
ratives present contextualized sequences of events
from which causal explanations can be established,
leading to the central theme of this article concerning
film as thesis. Asynthesis of these research traditions
leads tothe development of a pedagogical approachto
film analysis that goes beyond the identification of
how ideas are illustrated. This critical interrogation
approach seeks to establish the arguments or thesis
that a film advances. Third, criteria for film selection
are considered. Fourth, two films are analyzed using a
critical interrogation approach, and the pedagogical
implications of this approach are considered. In con-
clusion, we consider how film complements conven-
tional textbook coverage of the topics of interpersonal
influence and decision making.
An Undertheorized Medium?
The use of filmin teaching is well established. Film
can illustrate topics in a manner more graphic than
conventional instruction methods and is novel and
entertaining and thus motivational for students
(Champoux, 1999). In two influential volumes sub-
titled Using Film to Visualize Principles and Prac-
tices, Champoux (2001a, 2001b) identifies approxi-
mately 160 films that illustrate ideas and concepts in
management and organizational behavior but with-
out any theoretical context. Numerous other instruc-
tors have documentedtheir use of filmandthe themes
that theyillustrate (Baker, 1993; Comer, 2000; Comer &
Cooper, 1998; Harrington & Griffin, 1990; Huczynski,
1994; Michaelson & Schulteiss, 1988; Rappaport &
Cawelti, 1998; Serey, 1992).
It is our contention that the use of filmhas been un-
dertheorized. Most commentators follow Champoux
(1999) and rely on the taken-for-granted nature of
films demonstrative and motivational characteris-
tics. Exceptions to this claim include Foreman and
Thatchenkery (1996) and Hassard and Holliday
(1998). Exploring narrative as data fromwhich theory
can be constructed. Pentland (1999, p. 712) distin-
guishes between the surface structure of narrative,
involvingdescriptionandillustration, anddeepstruc-
ture, concerning explanations of event sequences.
Narratives are also a component of individual
sensemaking (Weick, 1995), and as such, both consti-
tute or construct, as well as reflect and recreate, ver-
sions of social and organizational worlds. Most ad-
vocates of film as a pedagogical tool thus appear to
focus on the reflective surface features of narra-
tive. Narrative theory indicates that film has other
more significant, deeper, and constitutive pedagogi-
cal properties.
Narrative Theory
Narratives appear in management and organiza-
tionstudies inthe formof case studies, executive auto-
biographies, andanecdotes. Case studies are designed
as classroom tools, autobiographies offer idiosyn-
cratic accounts of managerial success, and amusing
stories may offer superficial clues to organization cul-
ture. Narratives in any form, especially fictional,
mythical, or apocryphal, are therefore readily dis-
counted as useful sources of knowledge. However,
numerous commentators argue that narratives are a
significant, and overlooked, source of understanding
in their own right (Butler, 1997; Czarniawska, 1998,
1999; Putnam, Phillips, & Chapman, 1996), including
entertaining anecdotes (Boje, 1991; Gabriel, 1998,
2000). What is the rationale for this claim? Hinting at
the terminological diversity of this area (Boje, 2001,
adds antenarrative), Putnam et al. (1996) argue that
Narratives are ubiquitous symbols that are prevalent
in all organizations. Also referredto as stories, scripts,
myths, legends and sagas, narratives are accounts of
events, usually developed chronologically and
sequentiallytoindicate causality. . . . Theyare the vehi-
cles through which organizational values and beliefs
are produced, reproduced, and transformed. They
shape organizational meanings through functioning
as retrospective sensemaking, serving as premises of
arguments and persuasive appeals, acting as implicit
mechanisms of social control, andconstituting frames
of reference for interpreting organizational actions.
(pp. 386-387)
The term narrative is used here, following
Czarniawskas (1998) definition: A narrative, in its
most basic form, requires at least three elements: an
original state of affairs, an action or an event, and the
consequent state of affairs (p. 2). Czarniawsksa notes
that narrative plots rely on human intentionality and
context and are based on chronology, which expresses
causality; this happened first, then that happened
Buchanan, Huczynski / IMAGES OF INFLUENCE 313
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next. Narratives are thus theory laden, expressing
causal relationships and providing explanations.
Field-based case study reports are often narratives.
Czarniawska subtitles her 1999 volume Organiza-
tion Theory as a Literary Genre. Equating fiction
withcase research, Czarniawska (1999) argues that in
a goodstory, the events are its facts, andthe point is its
theory. Astory without a point is meaningless; so are
field reports that are not informed by theoretical
insight (p. 16).
Management educationbasedonfictionhas a mod-
est pedigree. Novels can be specifically authored as
didactic tools, exploring, for example, quality man-
agement (The Goal, Goldratt & Cox, 1993) or man-
agerial exploitation (Human Resources, Kemske, 1996).
Straight fiction can also be educational. Advocates
of this approach in management and organization
studies include Puffer (1991), Grottola (1994),
Czarniawska-Joerges and de Monthoux (1994),
Thompson and McGivern (1996), and Knights and
Willmott (1999).
Representations of Organization
To be commercially successful, film has to exag-
gerate, sensationalize, and glamorize characters and
events. Although entertaining and demonstrative,
film can thus be dismissed as a source of knowledge
because it offers superficial, manufactured, and im-
pressionistic accounts of organizational worlds; sur-
face, not depth, and form, not substance.
Hassard and Holliday (1998) argue that popular
film offers more dramatic, more intense and more
dynamic representations of organization than man-
agement texts (p. 1). Theyask are suchglimpses and
insights perhaps the very focus, the heart of organiza-
tional life, too long ignored by mainstream theory?
(p. 1), and they explore how portrayals of organiza-
tions in film inform both theory and practice. Burrell
(1998) is uncompromising in his viewof what organi-
zation theory neglects:
There is little mention of sex, yet organizations are
redolent with it; little mention of violence, yet organi-
zations are stinking with it; little mention of pain, yet
organizations rely upon it; little mention of the will to
power, yet organizations would not exist without it.
(p. 52)
Film may thus be able to portray more effectively
some aspects of organizational experience, including
sex, violence, pain, and power play.
Foreman and Thatchenkery (1996) analyze the
movie Rising Sun (Philip Kaufman, 1993), which con-
cerns murder in the boardroomof the Nakamoto Cor-
poration, a Japanese transplant inLos Angeles, during
negotiations to acquire Microcon, an American de-
fense company. JohnConnor (Sean Connery) andWeb
Smith(WesleySnipes) are the detectives. First, this can
be read as a study of a Japanese transplant in an alien
culture, with the consequent clash of organizational
behavior styles. Second, this is a study in cross-
cultural communications. Connor has to teach his
partner about doing business with the Japanese, in
terms of social norms andrituals, preservingface, con-
versation style, and interpersonal relationships.
Third, this can be seen as a study of organizational
power politics, revealed in the symbolic use of archi-
tecture, the exploitation of friendships, the use of sur-
veillance technology, the importance of golfing rela-
tionships, and links to national politics through the
blackmail of a senator. Fourth, inexhibitinglackof clo-
sure, and the negotiable nature of reality, Rising Sun
can be viewedas a metaphor for the postmodernview
of ambiguity and uncertainty. As with narrative in
general, filmbothreflects andconstructs explanations
for event sequences and outcomes (Harper, 2000) and
can be interpreted from this perspective.
Process Theorizing
Process theories, based on interpretivist epistemol-
ogy, try to understand ill-defined flows of action in
specific organizational contexts (Langley, 1999). Vari-
ance theories, basedonpositivist epistemology, aimto
establish relationships between clearly operational-
ized variables. The dimensions of this complex debate
are beyond the scope of this article, and the following
outline is a caricature. However, it is important to note
the different conceptions of causality in these per-
spectives. Interpretivism prefers qualitative data and
seeks to establish hownaturally occurring factors and
events at different levels of analysis interact to influ-
ence observed outcomes over time in a particular con-
text or category of context. Positivism prefers quanti-
tative data, exploring covariation among a controlled,
limited, and well-defined set of variables and reach-
ing for universal claims about the causal effects of
independent on dependent variables. The positivist
termcause thus does not wholly equate with the inter-
pretivist language of shape, mold, and color. At the
extreme, although positivists see hopeless impreci-
sion and lack of rigor in processual accounts, inter-
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pretivists see pointless measurement and trivialized
oversimplification in positivist variance accounts.
Process theories thus adopt a looser, but more com-
plex, concept of causality and have been particularly
influential in the field of organizational change. For
example, Pettigrew (1985; Pettigrew, Ferlie & McKee,
1992; Pettigrew, Woodman, & Cameron, 2001) and
Dawson (1994, 2003) argue that change has to be
understood in terms of the multilevel interactions
between change substance, context, implementation
process, and organization politics over time. Their
case study accounts offer rich narratives of change
processes in which the organizational context, the
motives and actions of the main characters, and the
sequence of events in interaction all serve to construct
explanations of the outcomes. Process theorizing has
also been applied more widely; Langley (1999) iden-
tifies a range of inductive strategies for analyzing
and interpreting process data, and Pentland (1999)
explores narrative data in general as a basis for the
development of process theory.
Critical Interrogation
The point we wish to establish is that, rather as
quantitative data canbe interrogatedtoidentifystatis-
tically significant cross-tabulations and correlations,
the process data in filmic narratives can be interro-
gatedtoidentify event sequences andexplanations. In
other words, we can view film not just as entertain-
ment and illustration but analyze film as thesis.
From this perspective, most if not all films can be
analyzed as encoding a central argument. This thesis
is often the good guys always win, or the course of
true love is never smooth. However, manyfilms have
more interesting and subtle theses. In the films by
Shekhar Kapur, Bandit Queen (1994) and Elizabeth
(1998), the central thesis appears to be that (female)
leaders must be ruthless to sustain their power base.
Some films suggest complex postmodern theses con-
cerning the uncertain, ambiguous, manipulated, and
unknowable nature of identity and reality, as in The
Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999) and
eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999).
The analytical approach suggested by narrative,
representation, andprocess theorycanbe describedas
critical interrogation. This approachaims toreachpast
the surface features of narrative description and
explores the explanations and theses that lie in the
narratives deep structure. This approach involves a
three-stage questioning strategy that echoes some
aspects of the approach one might adopt when ap-
praising an academic paper.
First, what is the main argument of this film? In
some cases, this may be superficial and obvious,
whereas in others, as in Rising Sun, a number of theses
may be apparent. It is important to recognize that
there may be no single definitive answer to this ques-
tion, that different viewers maysee different messages
encoded in the same narrative, and that in some in-
stances, the answer tothis questionwill be negotiable.
Second, is this argument coherent and compelling,
with respect to evidence and reasoning? The reason-
ing and evidence here concern aesthetic factors, such
as the flowof events, the credibility of the plot, andthe
plausibility of the characters andtheir behavior in this
context. The extent towhichanargument is supported
bysuchevidence is a matter of judgment, not calculus.
Good texts convince by their plausibility. There are no
rules to guarantee such conviction, and viewer re-
sponse is thus as important as text features. Fictional
accounts are thus sources of meaning and inspiration
and, as such, can potentially be read as valid versions
of the world (Czarniawska, 1999).
Third, to what degree does this argument general-
ize to other settings and to practice? The concept of
statistical generalization is clearly inappropriate in
this context, whereas naturalistic and analytical gen-
eralizations are critical. Naturalistic generalization
concerns the extent to which viewers identify with the
characters and consider that the narratives thesis ap-
plies to settings with which they are familiar (Stake,
1994). Analytical generalization concerns the extent to
which the thesis advanced can inform theory
(Buchanan, 1999; Butler, 1997; Dyer & Wilkins, 1991;
Mitchell, 1983; Stake, 2000; Tsoukas, 1989; Yin, 1994).
Tsoukas (1989) argues that studies of patterns of
events in single cases can clarify structural aspects of
social configurations, the associated causal or genera-
tive mechanisms, andthe contingent factors leadingto
observedbehaviors. Dyer andWilkins (1991) note that
a single case analysis can expose newtheoretical rela-
tionships and question established thinking.
In approaching these questions in relation to a fic-
tional account (or one that departs from the historical
record), a compelling thesis may be sustained even
when it is clear that the events depicted have never
happened. For example, in Contact (Robert Zemeckis,
1997), the project leader Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster)
is consistently sidelined by her ex-colleague, David
Drumlin (Tom Skerritt). The central thesis of this film
can be captured in the phrase integrity loses, deceit
Buchanan, Huczynski / IMAGES OF INFLUENCE 315
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wins. The differential implications of political skill
and political ineptitude apply across a range of orga-
nizational settings, despite being portrayed here in a
science fiction movie involving a successful search for
extraterrestrial life.
Film Selection
What criteria can be applied to guide the selection
of movies for pedagogical use? One overriding crite-
rion concerns the nature and relevance to educational
objectives of a films thesis revealed through critical
interrogation. This assessment may also take into
account how interesting and controversial that thesis
is. Three additional criteria can be applied concerning
plausibility, aesthetic appeal, and generalizability.
Plausibility. Czarniawska (1998, p. 70) observes that
from an interpretivist viewpoint, the criteria for good
text include trustworthiness (truth value, applicabil-
ity, consistency, neutrality), probability (coherence),
fidelity (truth value), and rationality. A good film,
therefore, is credible, trustworthy, coherent, memor-
able, and resonates with audience experience and
Aesthetic appeal. Returning to Weicks (1995) notion
of the good story, Czarniawska (1999) also observes
that narratives as versions of worlds gain acceptabil-
ity, not in spite of, but because of, their aesthetic fea-
tures (p. 57). Documentary precision, she argues, is
less significant than creative insight. Pentland (1999)
observes that good stories are central to building
better theory (p. 711). Taylor, Fisher, and Dufresne
(2002) emphasize artful stories with aesthetic appeal
in the context of organizational learning and problem
solving. We are therefore not abandoning the sur-
face features of illustrationandentertainment inusing
film. These considerations remain significant, but
here, we are seekingtodevelopfurther the potential of
the medium.
Generalizability. As discussed earlier, narratives
inform organization and management practice, and
individual actions, through naturalistic generaliza-
tion, andtheyinformtheorythroughanalytical gener-
alization. Czarniawska (1999) observes that
a narrative is able to produce generalizations and
deep insights without claiming universal status. A
narrative is also able to transfer tacit knowledge with-
out directly verbalizing it (a reader can imitate it, as
happens in learning by observation). Finally, it is pos-
sible to translate a narrative into a logico-scientific
theory (although one would need many narratives)
andintoaplanof action(alocal translation). (p. 16)
Unlike statistical generalization, in which claims
are made for a population on the basis of a limited
sample, naturalistic and analytical generalizations
from narrative may be more or less individual and
local rather than universal.
These are not definitive criteria but rely on placing
films on a continuum of suitability using judgments
that are ultimately subjective. The nature of these
judgments may be clarified by considering films that
are implausible, in which aesthetic appeal is limited,
and in which generalizability in any sense is re-
stricted. Some horror, fantasy, science fiction, and
spoof comedy films can perhaps be located closer to
this end of the suitability continuum. However, even
Star Trek movies, with preposterous plots and implau-
sible characters, encode social norms and general-
izable arguments about the management of rela-
tionships with alien cultures and contingent factors
influencing the effectiveness of different leadership
Critical interrogation thus aims to incorporate and
move beyond approaches that look for illustrations of
ideas and is concerned to establish the thesis of the
film under analysis. The potential of this perspective
is illustrated through the analysis of two films that
portray aspects of interpersonal influence and deci-
sion making. The films are 12 Angry Men (Sidney
Lumet, 1957) and Thirteen Days (Roger Donaldson,
2001). Although based on different plots and contexts,
these films appear to advance similar theses.
12 Angry Men is a fictional courtroom drama. Thir-
teen Days is a dramatizedaccount of the CubanMissile
Crisis, which almost triggered nuclear war in 1962.
Separated by almost half a century in production, set
in radically different contexts, they share common
The narratives in each case revolve around life-
and-death decisions, over which there is initial
The action focuses on a group of decision influencers
whose interactions are confined to a single room in
one case and to a cabinet room and surrounding
offices in the other. This locational constraint contrib-
utes to the tensions between the characters and
focuses viewers attention on their behaviors.
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The characters are male. One decoding of this is that
the responsibilities of influencing and making diffi-
cult decisions are mans work, a perception that per-
haps faced less challenge in the middle years of the
20th century.
Both films feature a central character; a jury member
played by Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men and a presi-
dential aide playedby Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days.
Neither holds a senior management post, but both
exert significant influence on the decision-making
processes at the center of each narrative.
An assessment of how these films meet our four
selection criteria is summarized in Table 1. One read-
ing of each of these films is presented here, focusing
on interpersonal influence and decision making. As
Foreman and Thatchenkery (1996) suggest, readings
fromother perspectives are possible. 12AngryMencan
be analyzed for what it reveals about male interper-
sonal behavior and bonding or the nature, develop-
ment, and exercise of personal and social power. Thir-
teen Days displays organization political behavior and
canalso be readas a studyinstrategic decisionmaking
or in the roles of advisers to senior management.
12 Angry Men
12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda, was shot in
black andwhite andruns for 92 minutes. The plot con-
cerns a juryof 12 White mendiscussingtheir verdict in
a trial in which an 18-year-old Spanish American boy
is accused of murdering his father. The prosecution
case is strong; the defense is weak. Initially, 11 jurors
vote guilty. One (Fonda) feels that there is reasonable
doubt. Aguilty verdict will lead to a mandatory death
sentence. The jury eventually decides not guilty after
Fonda persuades each of the jurors in turn to change
their minds. The achievement of Fondas character
generates the plot of the filmandprovides the basis for
an analysis of the interpersonal influence process.
Apart from the contextualizing sequence at the be-
ginningandthe final courtroomanddeparture scenes,
the action takes place around the table in the jury
room. Most characters are identified by occupation or
personal characteristics rather than by name and rep-
resent a broad social mix: sports coach (jury foreman),
bank clerk, owner of messenger service, stockbroker,
man fromslums, house painter, baseball fan, architect
(Fonda), oldman, garage owner, watchmaker, andad-
vertising man.
Following our critical interrogation approach,
what is the thesis of this film? The central thesis ap-
pears to be that jury decisions are not based exclu-
sively on a rational consideration of the evidence pre-
sented but are colored by contextual, temporal,
processual, social, and emotional factors and on a
range of overt and covert influencing tactics. The
Buchanan, Huczynski / IMAGES OF INFLUENCE 317
Table 1
Film Selection Criteria
12 Angry Men Thirteen Days
Thesis Jury decisions are not based exclusively on a rational
consideration of the evidence presented but are col-
ored by contextual, temporal, processual, social, and
emotional factors and on a range of overt and covert
influencing tactics
Strategic decisions are not events based on a rational
consideration of the evidence but are embedded in a
complex process influenced by contextual, temporal,
social, political, and emotional factors, as well as by a
range of overt and covert influencing tactics
Plausibility The plot has a mix of ordinary characters from all walks
of life, with normal values and interests; jury service is
experienced widely, shown on television; this broadly
is how we expect juries to behave, we sympathize with
some characters and mock the views and prejudices of
The plot is based on actual events, reported by Kennedy
(1968) and Allison (1969); great care was taken to
mimic the White House setting in which the action
takes place; the main characters, including President
Kennedy and his brother Robert and their presidential
aide, are based on real individuals
Aesthetic appeal The plot is crafted such that the audience wants to know
if Fonda can turn the jury, and how, thus saving the life
of the defendant; dialogue moves from evidence to
intimate personal disclosure; the film received Oscar
nominations, including best picture
Although we know the outcome, the plot is crafted such
that the drama, urgency, uncertainties, and intense
pressures in the unfolding series of potentially disas-
trous events draw viewers into the action, pictured
mainly through the eyes of Kenny ODonnell (Kevin
Generalizability We visualize ourselves taking sides in this debate, argu-
ing with others, complaining about the conditions; the
intense nature of jury debate has been confirmed in
recent research; jury decisions are not uniquely the
result of a careful and rational consideration of the
We sympathize with the pacifist-leaning but beleaguered
President Kennedy and his aides, wrestling with the
countervailing voices of the hawks, whose advice
could precipitate a holocaust; we know that senior
management decisions are politicized and are not
based on evidence and reason alone
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event sequence of the film revolves around a series of
influence attempts, through which Fondas character
gradually turns the jury to deliver a not guilty verdict,
thus saving the defendants life. The explanation for
this outcome lies withthe combinationof factors sum-
marized in Table 2.
The evidence to support this thesis is compelling.
The physical setting is significant. The jurors are se-
questered in a small, hot, locked, and guarded room.
Later, a storm rages outside, encouraging joint action
to adjust ventilation. They are uncomfortable and irri-
table. There is noescape, until a verdict is reached. The
time frame is significant. Some jurors just want to
leave; others want to discuss the issues. The more pro-
longedthe discussion, the more frustratedsome jurors
become, making them more susceptible to influence
attempts. The decision-making process is significant.
This takes the form of a secret ballot, followed by dis-
cussion punctuated by further ballots. Sometimes,
this discussion involves the whole group, sometimes
a subset. The group dynamics are significant. Some
groupmembers are antagonistic towardothers, reject-
ing their views out of hand, whereas others are pre-
pared to establish friendships and listen to the opin-
ions of others. The atmosphere of debate is significant.
This is sometimes cool and rational, on occasion
highly emotional, verging on violence, sometimes
evidence based, sometimes based more on perception
and prejudice.
Fonda deploys an array of influencing behavior:
preparation, nonconfrontational language, dramatic
timing, physical positioning, exposing contradictions,
andconflicts through careful questioning, using ques-
tions to encourage self-doubt and self-realization,
signposting contributions, using a secret ballot to
avoid group pressure, exposing views at other times
to public scrutiny, encouraging public commitment,
interpreting and representing facts in an advanta-
geous manner, challenging opinions to destabilize the
majority view, self-disclosure, attentive and sympa-
thetic listening, accepting tokens of friendship, offer-
ing token assistance, demonstrating proof through
reconstruction, playing on personal preferences,
exploiting group mood, and slowly building a power-
ful coalition. Some tactics fail and are either aban-
doned or are repeated with greater effect at another
To what degree does this argument generalize to
other settings and to practice? Froma naturalistic per-
spective, it is not difficult to see how ones opinions
and decisions are colored not only by the information
with which we are presented but also by the charac-
teristics (pleasant or otherwise) of our physical sur-
roundings, timing (pressured or relaxed), the se-
quence of events (and our engagement in this flow),
group dynamics (the quality of relationships), feel-
ings (friendly, antagonistic), and influencing tactics
deployed by others. From an analytical perspective,
theories that are dyadic, episodic, and decontextual-
ized appear to offer partial accounts of the influence
With respect to jury behavior, recent research offers
support for the thesis of 12 Angry Men. Kressel and
Kressel (2001) argue that although most court cases
appear to be decided on evidence, training can
improve the credibility of witnesses and the effective-
ness of lawyers whooftentest versions of the evidence
with focus groups to establish the best trial approach.
Basinghis account onparticipant observationas a jury
foreman in a murder trial, Burnett (2001) reveals how
the verdict was influencedbya combinationof factors,
including a tyrannical judge, mediocre contributions
frompolice andlawyers, the compositionandintellec-
tual capabilities of the jury, physical isolation, group
dynamics, and a range of intimate and violent emo-
tional displays, inadditiontothe evidence of the case.
Pedagogical implications. Conventional accounts
tend to focus on one-on-one or dyadic influence
attempts, advocating the use of a relatively narrow
range of techniques, the choice of approach being
contingent on the characteristics of the person to
Table 2
The Thesis of 12 Angry Men
Initial Condition Explanatory Factors Outcome
Majority verdict is guilty Contextual: small, uncomfortable room Unanimous verdict of not guilty
Temporal: some anxious to leave, others dont care
Processual: ballots, group discussions, subsets
Social: friendships and antagonisms
Emotional: from cool and rational to violent
Behavioral: range of influence tactics
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be influenced. Kipnis, Schmidt, Swaffin-Smith, and
Wilkinson (1984) identify eight influencing tech-
niques, including assertiveness, ingratiation, rational
appeal, sanctions, exchange, upward appeal, block-
ing, andcoalition. Cialdini (2001) offers a similar anal-
ysis based on what he calls weapons of influence,
prescribing different forms of words to use with dif-
ferent influence targets. Williams and Miller (2002)
recommend tailoring influence attempts to the
decision-making style of the target.
The unit of analysis inthese accounts tends tobe the
influence attempt or episode. Although valuable,
these dyadic-episodic perspectives do not account for
the wider contextual, temporal, processual, social,
and emotional factors that can condition influence or
persuasion attempts. By contextualizing the influence
process, 12 Angry Men offers a more rounded and
complex perspective on the use of influence tactics.
Although we knowthat this is fiction, it is tempting to
conclude that this filmoffers a more realistic portrayal
of the process of interpersonal influence in organiza-
tional settings than many textbook accounts.
Thirteen Days
Thirteen Days, starring Kevin Costner, was shot in
color and lasts approximately 100 minutes. It is based
on the true story of the Cuban Missile Crisis of Octo-
ber 1962, a diplomatic conflict between America and
Russia that almost triggered nuclear war. The director
andwriter, DavidSelf, researchedmemoirs, literature,
journalistic accounts, declassified CIA documents,
and White House tapes, as well as speaking to partici-
pants, includingTedSorenson(White House counsel),
Robert McNamara (secretary of defense), William B.
Ecker (navy air commander), and Dino Brugioni (CIA
photo interpreter). The White House, oval office,
cabinet room, and Presidents desk were recreated in
The narrative is revealedthroughthe eyes of Kenny
ODonnell (Kevin Costner), aide to President John F.
Kennedy. The critical decisions in this case concern
howto respondto the discovery (fromairborne recon-
naissance) that Russia has deployed nuclear missiles
on the island of Cuba, off the Florida coast. This is an
unacceptable security threat, and America wants the
missiles withdrawn. The outcome of some American
responses to this threat, however, could be a nuclear
holocaust. Influencing these decisions is a close-knit
group of advisers, all male. Women appear briefly in
background nurturing and emotional support roles,
particularly ODonnells wife and family. The male
dress code is strict, with formal office wear for most
occasions, jackets buttoned at almost all times.
The central thesis of Thirteen Days is strikingly simi-
lar to that of 12 Angry Men: Strategic decisions are not
single events basedexclusively ona rational consider-
ation of the evidence but are embedded in a complex
organizational process influenced by contextual, tem-
poral, social, political, and emotional factors, as well
as by a range of overt and covert influencing tactics.
Rejecting military options and making an appropriate
judgment about which of two inconsistent Russian
messages to which to reply, Kennedy and his team
make the correct decisions, the Russians withdraw
their missiles, and war is averted. The explanation for
this outcome thus lies with the combination of factors
summarized in Table 3.
The event sequence of the filmrevolves around the
key decision maker, John F. Kennedy, and a range of
decision influencers whose respective views on
appropriate actions differ markedly. Contextual, tem-
poral, and processual factors again play an influential
role. The action unfolds during 12 days of continuous
meetings inthe White House cabinet roomandnearby
offices. There is limited contact with families and out-
siders. We see the housebound wife contrasted with
male power plays in the boys room of strategic deci-
sion making. America wants Russia to remove its mis-
siles from Cuba immediately and also wants to avoid
war. If Americanactionis slow, Russia will move more
missiles to Cuba and consolidate their installation.
America introduces a quarantine. OnOctober 24, Rus-
sian cargo ships sail toward the naval blockade. They
stop short. Is Russia backing down? Or have the ships
stopped to pick up Soviet submarine escorts? Arapid
response to this newsituationis required. Delay could
send inappropriate signals about American inten-
tions. A wrong decision reached in haste could have
disastrous consequences. Although some decisions
can be taken in a consideredmanner, others have to be
made rapidly with incomplete and ambiguous infor-
mation in the face of internal disagreements. Informa-
tion becomes available in a fragmentary manner, as
Kennedy and his associates are faced not with a sin-
gle decision but with a constant streamof interrelated
Social factors, in the pattern of group dynamics,
also contribute to decision outcomes. Kennedy has
a leadership role for which there is no analogue in
12 Angry Men. He considers information and balances
views before selecting courses of action. Information
Buchanan, Huczynski / IMAGES OF INFLUENCE 319
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about Russian intentions is open to multiple interpre-
tations, and there are difficulties in anticipating Rus-
sian responses to American actions. Kennedy is the
target of a series of influence attempts, as his advisers
advocate forcefully their positions. These advisers
include his brother Robert, his aide ODonnell, other
members of his administration, bureaucrats, and
senior military commanders (the hawks advocating
military action). These advisers form cliques and col-
lude. They advocate forcefully their preferred recom-
mendations. They challenge the views of others. They
make public statements giving the media access to the
internal debate, thus bringing external pressure to
bear onother players. Some (notablyAdlai Stevenson)
are deliberately used to deal with awkward
Emotional and backstage political factors also
shape decision outcomes. Judgments are reached not
through an objective assessment of evidence but in a
tense and highly charged emotional atmosphere.
Issues of national security clash with the desire to
avoid nuclear war, and differences in views also re-
flect personality clashes. In addition to rational and
emotional appeal, one attempt to influence Kennedy
is based on a complicated sting. The military hawks
advocate a course of action as imperative, emphasiz-
ingthat there are noother credible options. The recom-
mendation at the heart of this sting has a high (if not
certain) probability of failure, whichis concealedfrom
Kennedy, although it is openly admitted that natu-
rally, there are risks. The sting is that the failure of the
advised action will predetermine subsequent deci-
sions, constraining Kennedys room for maneuver. It
is the subsequent forced decisions that the hawks
want to achieve. One role for a supportive adviser,
therefore, is to stand back from immediate pressures
and to consider motives, outcomes, and options.
ODonnell is alert to this sting. He telephones navy
close reconnaissance pilots personally to tell them
what tosayif shot at (that is, tolie byclaiming theydid
not encounter enemy fire) to avoid giving the hawks
an excuse for military intervention. (In a similar man-
ner, the young queen Elizabeth in the film by Shekhar
Kapur, 1998, is successfully stung by traitorous court-
iers when advised to invade Scotland, an enterprise
doomed to failure. Her adviser Walsinghamsaves her
from further misfortunes.)
The evidence to support this thesis is once again
compelling. The characters are based on real figures,
the series of events portrayed has been well docu-
mented from a research perspective (Allison, 1969)
and by one of the central figures (Kennedy, 1968), and
the event sequence in the film is coherent. Although
artistic license has undoubtedly created a dramatiza-
tion of events that departs from the historical record,
the broadflowof events andthe roles of the characters
are plausible and close to what is known about this
To what degree does this argument about influence
and decision making generalize to other settings and
to practice? Froma naturalistic perspective, it is plau-
sible that strategic decisions, despite their public pre-
sentation, are shaped by context, process, timing,
group dynamics, emotions, and the politicking of key
players. Media coverage of national politics regularly
reinforces this view. From an analytical perspective,
the evidence confirms the poverty of classical, logical,
rational accounts of the decision-making process.
However, the evidence also fails adequately to sup-
port decision models, such as Lindbloms (1959) the-
ory of disjointed incrementalism or the garbage can
model of March and Olsen (1976), as the decisions
involved are neither minor with inconsequential out-
comes nor do those fateful decisions simply occur at
the intersection of problems, opportunities, solutions,
and actors.
Pedagogical implications. Thirteen Days is faithful to
Allisons (1969) seminal analysis. Seeking to explain
those events and to apply that understanding to Viet-
Table 3
The Thesis of Thirteen Days
Initial Condition Explanatory Factors Outcome
Russian missiles deployed on the Contextual: relative isolation of cabinet room Russia withdraws its missiles from Cuba
island of Cuba Temporal: rapid pace of uncertain events
Processual: 12 days of meetings and decisions
Social: hawks and doves, cliques and collusions
Emotional: high tension and anxiety
Political: backstaging to avoid a sting
Behavioral: competing recommendations advanced
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nam War policy, Allison contrasts three models of
decision making: the rational policy, organizational
process, and bureaucratic politics models. He ob-
serves that although public and academic orthodoxy
may place major decisions above politics, an under-
standing of such decisions is incomplete without a
knowledge of bargaining games and how decision
influencers will be advantaged or disadvantaged by
particular choices. He also observes that decisions do
not arise as discrete issues and that players are con-
frontedwith many simultaneous, emergent, andcom-
peting issues. Therefore, each player is forced to fix
upon his issues for that day, fight them on their own
terms, and rush on to the next (Allison, 1969, p. 708).
The resulting collage of decisions and actions is con-
tingent on the nature of the emergent issues and the
pace at which the game is played. Decision outcomes
are therefore not the result of a rational, linear analysis
of the evidence but of a series of time-dependent influ-
ence attempts, power plays, negotiations, and manip-
ulations. In language that may now be branded as
gender biased, Allison (1969) describes the game of
bureaucratic politics:
Men share power. Men differ concerning what must
be done. The differences matter. This milieu necessi-
tates that policy be resolved by politics. What the
nation does is sometimes the result of the triumph of
one group over others. . . . What moves the chess
pieces is not simply the reasons which support a
course of action, nor the routines of organizations
which enact an alternative, but the power and skill of
proponents and opponents of the action in question.
(p. 707)
Thirteen Days takes the viewer inside these complex
and politicized decision processes, moving with the
cast of characters as they confront and deal with the
emerging issues and as they confront and attempt to
influence other players. The notion that management
decisions and actions are more dependent on influ-
ence and political process than on rational analysis is
nowwidely accepted (Dawson, 1994, 1996; Pettigrew,
1973, 1985; Pfeffer, 1992). Thirteen Days thus offers a
potentially valuable complement to the traditional
lecture room coverage of management decision mak-
ing, as well as a potentially fruitful source of debate.
Our analysis suggests two final observations con-
cerning the pedagogical value of film. First, although
these films can be enjoyed passively as entertainment,
critical interrogation reveals a rich, multilayered per-
spective oninterpersonal influence anddecision mak-
ing, highlighting the role of contextual, temporal,
processual, political, social, and emotional factors, in
addition to more or less conventional influencing tac-
tics. These films bothchallenge andsupport aspects of
the research-basedcommentaryonthose themes. This
observation encourages critical viewing and evalua-
tion of the extent to which narratives confirm or con-
tradict theoretical positions. As HassardandHolliday
(1998) suggest, viewed from this perspective, film may
alsobeasource, inits ownright, of theoretical insight.
Second, although these films illustrate a number of
facets of management and organizational behavior,
they also support an overarching thesis concerning
influence anddecision-making processes. For instruc-
tors wishing to contrast variance with process modes
of theorizing, demonstrating the influence and inter-
action of contextual, processual, temporal, social,
political, and emotional dimensions, it would be diffi-
cult to match the compelling use of films such as the
two interrogated here with conventional instruction
methods. In addition, the topics of influencing, deci-
sion making, and organization politics are typically
dealt withdiscretelyinmainstreamorganizational be-
havior textbooks (Mullins, 2002; Robbins, 2001). Films
such as these demonstrate the theoretical and practi-
cal links and interdependencies between these top-
ics, facilitating an integrated teaching and learning
As well as, in some contexts, offering a sensational,
glamorous, and oversimplified perspective, film
viewed and interrogated critically as thesis appears
also to be capable of portraying complexity, process,
temporality, and interdependence. This observation
relies on the brief analysis of only two films. Further
commentary on the educational use of film in man-
agement and organization studies can be found in
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DAVID BUCHANAN is a professor of organizational behavior at
Leicester Business School, De Montfort University, United Kingdom. He
holds degrees in business administrationand organizational behavior from
Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities and has worked for 10 years at
the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He has also held visiting positions
inuniversities inCanada and Australia. He is the author of numerous arti-
cles and more than a dozen management books on organizational behavior,
politics, and change management. His current research focuses on innova-
tive organizationcultures, the sustainability of newworking practices, and
management and clinical role relations in health care.
ANDRZEJ HUCZYNSKI is a senior lecturer of organizational behavior
in the School of Business and Management, University of Glasgow, Scot-
land. He holds degrees in sociology and organizational behavior from the
London School of Economics (London University) and Glasgow Univer-
sity. He is the author of many academic articles, encyclopedias of manage-
ment teaching methods, and textbooks on organizational behavior, absen-
teeism, management guruship, and influencing. His current research
focuses on the use of educational (Web-based) technology in the teaching of
organizational behavior and management topics.
Buchanan, Huczynski / IMAGES OF INFLUENCE 323
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