Debbie Burke, PhD

About Debbie

Deborah Ferro Burke’s 20-year consulting practice focuses on leadership, culture and high-stakes decision-making for individuals, teams and enterprises. She provides strategic organizational consultation and confidential personal coaching for leadership and business performance. Much of her work uses organization culture to enact corporate values (such as quality, safety and integrity) for personal and business success. She maintains long-term relationships with GE and other global industrial, auto and insurance companies as well as with privately held technical companies, universities and non-profits.

In her GE career, Dr. Burke developed and led the innovative Corporate Entry Leadership Conference II at Crotonville, which built personal performance and business practice on GE’s customer, financial and human values. Debbie was on the team that invented GE’s action learning approach to leadership development in the Business Management Course for rising general managers. She also conducted two business-wide organization effectiveness evaluations using innovative methods to gather and understand qualitative data. She developed and initiated the game-changing Work-Out approach in the then-$15 billion global GE Industrial and Power systems business and in the Corporate Audit Staff, where she was Human Resources Manager. She is a contributing author to the first authoritative book on GE’s change methodology, The GE Work-Out, whose primary authors are long-time colleagues Dave Ulrich, Steve Kerr and Ron Ashkenas.

As clinical associate professor at the Lally School of Management and Technology at RPI, Dr. Burke taught organizational behavior in the MBA program. She also taught leadership in the first China management programs at the Levin Institute (SUNY). She is a mentor-instructor in UPOP, part of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program at MIT. She has been an advisor to various women’s leadership programs at the Simmons Graduate School of Management and at her alma mater, Smith College.

Dr. Burke’s MBA is from Columbia, where she concentrated in managerial behavior and was named a Harriman Scholar at the American Assembly on innovation. Her doctoral research at the Fielding Graduate University examined interrelationships between American management scholarship and business practice in the last half of the 20th century. Debbie did graduate work in child development at Bank Street College, where she received a Ford Foundation internship in children’s policy in Washington, D.C. She is certified in the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, Emotional Intelligence (EQi2), Forum “Influence.” She has presented at the Chaos Network, in public workshops at the Organization Development Network and Fielding Graduate University and regionally at the American Society for Training and Development and the Consulting Alliance. She contributes commentary to the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute and to local publications.

Her pro bono work focuses on adult literacy (three terms as chair of the Literacy Network of South Berkshire) and affordable housing (initiator of a community effort to build a $22-million affordable and middle-market ownership housing project). She enjoys early music and jazz, and hiking the Berkshires with human and canine friends.