Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Fed­eral Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion has made a trans­for­ma­tional shift to be more intel­li­gence driven and place greater emphasis on ter­rorism pre­ven­tion and strategic thinking, according to Thomas Har­rington, the FBI’s asso­ciate deputy director.

Changing the cul­ture of the nation’s top law enforce­ment agency hasn’t been easy, Har­rington told more than 50 mem­bers of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity at the Alumni Center Tuesday night, but it’s been a nec­es­sary shift to combat the emerging chal­lenges of tomorrow — including the growing threats of cyber secu­rity — and keep Amer­i­cans safe.

When you really look at where we were 10 years ago and where we are today, it’s been a remark­able change,” Har­rington said.

North­eastern has played a key role in helping the FBI manage its way through this trans­for­ma­tion over the last few years. Through a Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion (CBA) custom exec­u­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, about 400 FBI man­agers, ana­lysts and other offi­cials have gone through strategic change man­age­ment and lead­er­ship training led by CBA fac­ulty, with input from Harrington.

David Abdow, CBA’s asso­ciate dean of exec­u­tive pro­grams, said: “We pro­vide frame­works, con­cepts and tools that they can use back on the job to help imple­ment the kind of trans­for­ma­tion and change processes the orga­ni­za­tion is looking for.”

[At the FBI], we’re looking to build alliances with other pro­fes­sional orga­ni­za­tions, and in the aca­d­emic world, we see North­eastern as one of those cen­ters of excel­lence that we can gain a great deal of value from,” said Har­rington, adding that he often refers to CBA pro­fessor Bert Spector’s text book, “Imple­menting Orga­ni­za­tional Change: Theory Into Practice.”

Abdow said that for the last five years, CBA has placed a renewed focus on custom exec­u­tive edu­ca­tion — offering company-​​specific pro­grams that are cus­tomized to meet their part­ners’ needs.

The exec­u­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram stems from Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in experience-​​based edu­ca­tion. In addi­tion to the FBI, other exec­u­tive edu­ca­tion cor­po­rate part­ners include IBM, EMC, Raytheon, BAE Sys­tems, Putnam Invest­ments and The MathWorks.

During his campus visit to North­eastern this week, Har­rington also met with mem­bers of North­eastern and CBA’s lead­er­ship teams and inter­acted with stu­dents in Spector’s High-​​Tech MBA class on strategic change management.

In August 2010, Har­rington was appointed asso­ciate deputy director, the third-​​highest post in the FBI. Prior to his appoint­ment, Har­rington led the Crim­inal, Cyber, Response, and Ser­vices Branch, the FBI’s largest oper­a­tional entity. He also worked to estab­lish the FBI’s National Secu­rity Branch in 2005.

Most com­pa­nies can pro­duce a very good strategy,” Har­rington said, “but it’s a very small per­centage that can handle the pre­mium of the exe­cu­tion piece. We think we’ve done that at the FBI, even though we have a long way to go.

We con­tinue to want to look at tools and process and bringing people who can help us under­stand the way for­ward in what’s becoming a very com­plex world with all kinds of new threats and challenges.”