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A performative perspective on stability and change in organizational routines


  • Martha S. Feldman


This paper is about stability in organizational routines. It proposes a new explanation of stability, based on mindfulness rather than mindlessness. Traditional explanations of stability (or lack of change) in organizational routines suggest that organizational participants are not thinking about what they are doing, but repeating actions that they have taken in the past. In this paper I suggest that stability can also occur because organizational participants are making conscious efforts to understand what actions make sense in the context in which the work is being performed. The argument is that organizational participants use what they understand about how the organization operates to guide their performances within the routine. Relevant performances, such as the performances of supervisors, are integral to what people understand about how the organization operates. Organizational members use these understandings in choosing whether to enact the requested change. In so doing, they create and recreate the understandings about how the organization operates. This explanation is similar to performative explanations of change in organizational routines, though these explanations have focused on the effect of doing the routine on the production and reproduction of the routine rather than the production and reproduction of understandings about how the organization operates. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Martha S. Feldman, 2003. "A performative perspective on stability and change in organizational routines," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 727-752, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:12:y:2003:i:4:p:727-752

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    Cited by:

    1. Batista, Maria da Graca & Cunha, Miguel Pina e, 2008. "Improvisation In Tightly Controlled Work Environments: The Case Of Medical Practice," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp537, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
    2. Becker, Markus C. & Zirpoli, Francesco, 2008. "Applying organizational routines in analyzing the behavior of organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 128-148, April.
    3. Franck Aggeri & Julie Labatut, 2010. "La gestion au prisme de ses instruments. Une analyse généalogique des approches théoriques fondées sur les instruments de gestion," Revue Finance Contrôle Stratégie,, vol. 13(3), pages 5-37., September.
    4. Bénédicte Reynaud, 2005. "The void at the heart of rules: Routines in the context of rule-following," Working Papers halshs-00590855, HAL.
    5. Kaplan, Sarah & Tripsas, Mary, 2008. "Thinking about technology: Applying a cognitive lens to technical change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 790-805, June.
    6. Lounsbury, Michael, 2008. "Institutional rationality and practice variation: New directions in the institutional analysis of practice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 33(4-5), pages 349-361.
    7. Guido Cozzi & Paolo Giordani, 2011. "Ambiguity attitude, R&D investments and economic growth," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 303-319, May.
    8. Markus C. Becker & Nathalie Lazaric & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 2005. "Applying organizational routines in understanding organizational change," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(5), pages 775-791, October.
    9. Franck Aggeri & Julie Labatut, 2011. "Looking at management through its instruments," Post-Print hal-00639734, HAL.
    10. Philip Stiles & Jonathan Trevor & Elaine Farndale & Shad S. Morris & Jaap Paauwe & Guenter Stahl & Patrick Wright, 2015. "Changing Routine: Reframing Performance Management within a Multinational," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 63-88, January.
    11. Turnheim, Bruno & Geels, Frank W., 2012. "Regime destabilisation as the flipside of energy transitions: Lessons from the history of the British coal industry (1913–1997)," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 35-49.
    12. Dutta, Dev K. & Malhotra, Shavin & Zhu, PengCheng, 2016. "Internationalization process, impact of slack resources, and role of the CEO: The duality of structure and agency in evolution of cross-border acquisition decisions," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 212-225.
    13. repec:eee:tefoso:v:123:y:2017:i:c:p:142-152 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Lai, Jung-Ho & Chang, Shao-Chi & Chen, Sheng-Syan, 2010. "Is experience valuable in international strategic alliances?," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 247-261, September.
    15. Martijn van der Steen, 2011. "The emergence and change of management accounting routines," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 24(4), pages 502-547, May.
    16. D'Adderio, Luciana, 2008. "The performativity of routines: Theorising the influence of artefacts and distributed agencies on routines dynamics," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 769-789, June.
    17. Rémi Jardat, 2008. "How Democratic Internal Law Leads To Low Cost Efficient Processes : Practices As A Medium Of Interaction Between Institution And Organization," Post-Print hal-00485773, HAL.
    18. Tomi Laamanen & Johan Wallin, 2009. "Cognitive Dynamics of Capability Development Paths," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(6), pages 950-981, September.
    19. Stefan W. Konlechner & Barbara Müller & Wolfgang H. Güttel & Irina Koprax & Karin Link, 2016. "Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing: The Role of Artifacts in Interpretive Schema Change," Schmalenbach Business Review, Springer;Schmalenbach-Gesellschaft, vol. 17(2), pages 129-150, August.
    20. Martijn van der Steen, 2009. "Inertia and management accounting change: The role of ambiguity and contradiction between formal rules and routines," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 22(5), pages 736-761, June.
    21. Guha, Mahua & Das, Gopal, 2017. "Routine contraction in good times: An example of a typical prototype development routine," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 145-152.
    22. repec:oup:indcch:v:26:y:2017:i:4:p:571-591. is not listed on IDEAS
    23. repec:oup:indcch:v:26:y:2017:i:4:p:727-743. is not listed on IDEAS
    24. Cindy Zawadzki, 2011. "L'évolution du fonctionnement de la PME lors de l'introduction du contrôle de gestion : leçons d'un échec," Post-Print hal-00650594, HAL.
    25. Matthias Brauer & Tomi Laamanen, 2014. "Workforce Downsizing and Firm Performance: An Organizational Routine Perspective," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(8), pages 1311-1333, December.

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