James B. Thomas

Color portrait of James B. Thomas

Professor, The William Elliott Professorship of Risk and Management

Department Risk Management
Office Address 340 Business Building
Phone Number 814-863-3997
Email Address jthomas@smeal.psu.edu

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Dr. James B. Thomas is the Elliott Professor of Risk and Management in Smeal's Department of Risk Management. Previously from 2006-2012, he was the dean of the Smeal College of Business, holder of the Surma Dean's Chair, and professor of information sciences and management. From 1999 to 2006, he was the College of Information Sciences and Technology's (IST) founding dean and oversaw the college's growth and development across the Commonwealth, as well as the construction of the landmark IST Building at University Park. Prior to that, Thomas served as Smeal's senior associate dean. He began his career at Penn State as an assistant professor. His publications have appeared in Administration Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, among other top journals. Thomas also has received several research grants, including support to study "Industry Structure and the Role of Information Technology", and "Strategic Alignment". Previously he served as the director responsible for information technology strategic planning for the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, and earlier was the director responsible for information management systems for the Florida Department of State. He is a frequent speaker on education policy and programs appearing before the U.S. Congress and Pennsylvania Legislatures among many other venues. A graduate from Penn State in pre-law, Thomas received a master's degree in government from Florida State University and a doctorate in strategic management from the University of Texas at Austin.

Expertise

Sensemaking, Identity, Learning, Culture

Education

Ph D, Strategic Management (Decision making), University of Texas, Austin, 1988

MS, Government, Florida State University, 1979

BS, Pre-Law/Political Science, Penn State University, 1974

Courses Taught

BA 597 – Special Topics (1)
Formal courses given on a topical or special interest subject which may be offered infrequently.

MGMT 301H – Honors Mgmt (3)
Study of fundamental principles and processes available to the understanding of management. Students will likely spend a major part of their lives working for one or, perhaps, leading one they have started. Although sound technical skills and relevant knowledge are important reasons an organization hires employees, the ability to lead and manage people is critical for future advancement. This course is focused on the social facets of organizations - as opposed to elements such as finance, marketing, operations, etc. A good grasp of how organizations work will help students succeed in their careers. This course provides a forum to critically engage with theories and concepts that attempt to explain organizational practices. It is designed to not only provide students with the basic fundamentals that may be used as tools to become better managers, but also help students question their own assumptions about how people ought to behave and how they actually do behave in organizations. This course, builds on the concepts embedded in a traditional foundation management course by researching the theories these courses are built upon and pointing out the advantages and limitations of these different approaches. The topics covered in this course will provide both the breadth and depth of understanding of various topics including organizational structure, strategy, culture, leadership styles, ethics, and staffing that fall under the domain of Management and Organization. In addition, specific challenges faced by managers in contemporary organizations such as managing teams, globalization, and diversity are also incorporated. These topics are covered using lectures, independent research, case analyses and experiential exercises that will help you develop in-depth domain knowledge as well as managerial skills. In addition, the course will facilitate the development of research and analytic skills through the inclusion of individual presentations of current topics that represent critical issues in organizations. A team project will further enhance knowledge acquisition of specific issues facing organizations and, since teams are prevalent across most organizational settings, also help develop teamwork skills. Students may earn credit towards graduation for only one of the following; BA 304, MGMT 301, MGMT 301H, or MGMT 301W.

RM 440 – Risk and Strategy (3)
To examine key strategic concepts, ranging from cognitive to organizational, that are critical for managing risk at the enterprise level. R M 440 Risk, Strategy, and Decision Making (3) One of the key ways that a business attempts to manage risk it anticipates and confronts in markets is through organizational-level elements such as its business strategy, structure, and culture. These elements emerge from a series of decisions guided by the insights and biases of individuals. As such, the management of enterprise risk must also include an understanding of how individuals (e.g. managers) approach risk through their decisions and decision making processes. In this course, we look at some of these critical elements separately and then together as they integrate to guide and define enterprise risk management. The basic course objectives are to come away with an understanding of the following: Forms of strategic risk – From market to internally-driven risk; from emotional to economic-driven, how does strategic risk present itself? How do executives recognize/assess and respond to the “portfolio of risk” that they must address to make the business successful? Business strategy and structure – One way risk is addressed and articulated is through a business strategy. What is strategy? What are the key decisions that comprise a business strategy? How are organizations structured to implement these strategies and move information across the firm? Where and how is risk assessed in these processes and structures, and incorporated into a strategic risk plan? Decision making – Decision making around strategy and risk management plays out in various forms and across different levels (i.e., individuals and groups). What goes right and wrong? How are these processes systematically linked to perceptions and actions associated with risk management. Organizational culture – Perhaps one of the most critical elements in enterprise risk management is the role played by organizational culture (or simply “How we do things around here and my role as an organizational member doing it.”) We examine the roots of organizational culture and how it is aligned to perspectives of risk and its management. Descriptive vs. prescriptive perspectives – Once we “described” what does/could go on, we need to engage in looking at ways that organizations can prevent pitfalls and correct suboptimal practices.

MGMT 399 – Foreign Studies (3)
Courses offered in foreign countries by individual or group instruction.

B A 597A – Leadership and Decision Making (3)
In this course, we first look at the characteristics of the problems and opportunities faced by leaders. We then explore these decision making events from the perspective of the human cognition and behaviors used to deal with these decision characteristic

B A 596 – Individual Studies (2)
Creative projects, including nonthesis research, which are supervised on an individual basis and which fall outside the scope of formal courses.

R M 497B – Risk, Strategy, and Decision Making (3)
One of the key ways that a business attempts to manage the risk it anticipates in markets is through its business strategy. Strategy, in turn, emerges from a series of decisions guided by the insights and biases of people as well as various forces/factors

R M 496 – Independent Studies (Variable)
Creative Projects, including research and design, which are supervised on an individual basis and which fall outside the scope of formal courses.

I B 496 – Independent Studies (Variable)
Creative projects, including research and design, which are supervised on an individual basis and which fall outside the scope of formal courses.

MGMT 494H – Honors Research Project (variable)
Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.

MGMT 496 – Independent Studies (variable)
Creative projects, including research and design, which are supervised on an individual basis and which fall outside the scope of formal courses.

B A 496 – Independent Studies (variable)
Creative projects, including research and design, which are supervised on an individual basis and which fall outside the scope of formal courses.

IST 296 – Independent Studies (variable)
Creative projects, including research and design, that are supervised on an individual basis and that fall outside the scope of formal courses.

IST 496 – Independent Studies (variable)
Creative projects, including research and design, that are supervised on an individual basis and that fall outside the scope of formal courses.

B A 597K – Business Government and International Economics (1)
Formal courses given on a topical or special interest subject which may be offered infrequently.

IST 397A – Visual BASIC Database Programming (3)
Special topics course.

Selected Publications

Gioia D. A., Price K. N., Hamilton A. L., Thomas J. B., "Forging an Identity: An Insider-Outsider Study of Processes Involved in Organizational Identity Formation." Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 55, 2010, pp. 1-46
Clark S. M., Gioia D. A., Ketchen D., Thomas J. B., "Transitional Identity as a Facilitator of Organizational Identity Change during a Merger." Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 55, 2010, pp. 397-438
Thomas J. B., von Dran R., "The Emerging Information Field: Issues and Opportunities." MIT Press, 2006
Thomas J. B., Sawyer S., "i-School Academic Life." Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2006
Thomas J. B., Sawyer S., von Dran R., "The i-Field Transformation Ahead." Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2006
McNeese M., Purao S., Thomas J. B., Yen J., "Where No One has Gone Before...." Decision Line, vol. 35, no. 1, 2004, pp. 15-17
Labianca G., Fairbank J. F., Thomas J. B., Gioia D. A., Umphress E. E., "Emulation in Academia: Balancing Structure and Identity." Organization Science, vol. 3, no. 12, 2001, pp. 312-330
Thomas J. B., Sussman S. W., Henderson J. C., "Understanding Strategic Learning: Linking Organizational Learning, Knowledge Management, and Sensemaking." Organization Science, vol. 12, no. 3, 2001, pp. 331-345
Thomas J. B., Gioia D., Ketchen D., "Strategic sensemaking: Learning through scanning, interpretation, action, and performance." Advances in Strategic Management, (JAI Press), 1997
Thomas J. B., Ketchen D. J., Trevino L. K., McDaniel R. R., "Developing interorganizational relationships in the health sector: A multi-case study." Integrated health care delivery: Theory, practice, evaluation and prognosis, 1996, pp. 135-147
Thomas J. B., DeWitt R., "Strategic Alignment research and practice: A review and agenda." Strategic Alighment in Practice, (Oxford University Press), 1996, pp. 385-403
Gioia D. A., Thomas J. B., "Institutional Identity, Image, and Issue Interpretation: Sensemaking During Strategic Change in Academia." Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 3, 1996, pp. 370-403
Ketchen D. C., Thomas J. B., McDaniel, Jr. R. R., "Process, Content, and Context: Synerfistic Effects on Organizational Performance." Journal of Management, vol. 22, no. 2, 1996, pp. 231-257
Lindsley D. H., Brass D. J., Thomas J. B., "Efficacy-performance Spirals: A Multilvel Perspective." Academy of Management Review, vol. 20, no. 3, 1995, pp. 645-678
Gioia D. A., Thomas J. B., Clark S. M., Chittipeddi K., "Symbolism and strategic change in Academia: The dynamics of sensemaking and influence." Cognition within and between organizations, (Organization Science (1994)), 1994, pp. 207-244
Ketchen D., Thomas J. B., "Organization Theory." Montgomery Hospital, 1994
Thomas J. B., Shankster L. J., Mathieu J. E., "Antecedents to Organizational Issue Interpretation: The Role of Single-level, Cross-level, and Content Cues." Academy of Management Journal, vol. 37, no. 5, 1994, pp. 1252-1284
Snow C. C., Thomas J. B., "Field Research Methods in Strategic Management: Contributions to Theory Building and Testing." Journal of Management Studies, vol. 31, no. 4, 1994, pp. 457-480
Gioia D. A., Thomas J. B., Clark S. M., Chittipeddi K., "Symbolism and Strategic Change in Academia: The Dynamics of Sensemaking and Influence." Organization Science-Special Issue on Cognition, vol. 5, no. 3, 1994, pp. 363-383
Snow C. C., Thomas J. B., "Building Networks: Broker Roles and Behaviors." Strategic Processes: Learning, Adaptation and Innovation, (Basil Blackwell), 1993, pp. 271-278
Thomas J. B., Trevino L. K., "Information Processing in Strategic Alliance Building: A Multiple-Case Approach." Journal of Management Studies, vol. 30, no. 5, 1993, pp. 779-814
Ketchen D. J., Thomas J. B., Snow C. C., "Organizational Configuration and Performance: A Comparison of Theoretical Approaches." Academy of Management Journal--Special Issues on Configuration, vol. 36, no. 6, 1993, pp. 1278-1313
Thomas J. B., Clark S. M., Gioia D. A., "Strategic Sensemaking and Organizational Performance: Linkages Among Scanning, Interpretation, Action, and Outcomes." Academy of Management Journal, vol. 36, no. 2, 1993, pp. 239-270
Thomas J. B., Ketchen, Jr. D. J., Trevino L. K., McDaniel R. R., "Developing Interorganizational Relationships in the Health Sector." Health Care Management Review, vol. 17, no. 2, 1992, pp. 7-19
Henderson J. C., Thomas J. B., "The Alignment of Business and Information Technology Domains: Perspectives of Strategic Planning in Hospitals." Hospital and Health Services Administration, vol. 37, no. 1, 1992, pp. 71-87
Thomas J. B., McDaniel R. R., "Hospitals as Interpretation Systems." Health Services Research, vol. 25, no. 6, 1991, pp. 859-880
Anderson R. A., Thomas J. B., "The Thinking Hospital." Health Progress, vol. 72, no. 7, 1991, pp. 16-18
Thomas J. B., "Process/Outcome Linkages: The Art of Problem Solving." Contemporary Psychology, vol. 36, no. 6, 1991, pp. 381
Thomas J. B., Trevino L. K., Cramer J. S., Lafferty, Jr. W. J., "Organization Theory." Midwest Health System, 1990
Ketchen, Jr. D. J., Thomas J. B., "Dividing and Conquering Strategic Issues." Health Progress, vol. 71, no. 7, 1990, pp. 64-68
Thomas J. B., McDaniel R. R., "Interpreting Strategic Issues: Effects of Strategy and Top Management Team Information Processing Structure." Academy of Management Journal, vol. 33, no. 2, 1990, pp. 286-306
Elam J. J., Thomas J. B., "Evaluating the Productivity of Information System Organizations in State Government." Public Productivity Review, vol. 12, no. 3, 1989, pp. 262-277
Carsrud A. L., Olm K. W., Thomas J. B., "Predicting Entrepreneurial Success: Achievement Motivastion, Personality Traits, and Contextual Factors." Jornal of Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, vol. 1, no. 2, 1989, pp. 237-244
Thomas J. B., McDaniel R. R., Dooris M. L., "Strategic Issues Analysis: NGT + Decision Analysis for Resolving Strategic Issues." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, vol. 25, no. 2, 1989, pp. 189-200
Kleinmuntz D. N., Thomas J. B., "The Value of Action and Inference in Dynamic Decision Making." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 39, 1987, pp. 341-364
McDaniel, Jr. R. R., Thomas J. B., Ashmos D. P., Smith J. P., "The Use of Decision Analysis for Organizational Design: Reorganizing a Community Hospital." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, vol. 23, no. 3, 1987, pp. 337-350
Olm K. W., Eddy G., Thomas J. B., "The Southland Corporation--Formulating an Acquisition Strategy and The Southland Corporation--Implementing an Acquisition Strategy." Management Policy and Strategy, 1986
Also in G. Smith, D. Arnold, and B. Bizzell (Eds), Strategy and Business Policy, Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1986
Dinitto D. M., McDaniel, Jr. R. R., Ruefli T. W., Thomas J. B., "The Use of Ordinal Time Series Analysis in Assessing Policy Inputs and Impacts." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, vol. 22, no. 1, 1986, pp. 77-93