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Improvisation In Tightly Controlled Work Environments: The Case Of Medical Practice


  • Batista, Maria da Graca
  • Cunha, Miguel Pina e


We present a qualitative analysis of organizational improvisation and provide a preliminary insight into the following question: how is improvisation present in tightly controlled work environments? We conducted in situ observations of, and interviews with, several emergency medical teams and complemented this information with statistical and media data. Using grounded theory, we developed four propositions that were arranged into a model that allowed the identification of two use levels of established routines: (1) the visible side that accommodates contextual requirements, and (2) the improvisational side that provides a response to activity characteristics. This dual process is related to the existence of pressures that operate at the institutional level with practical needs emerging from the operational domain. In contrast with most of the literature, this study reveals that the presence of a broad procedural organizational memory does not restrict improvisation but enables a bureaucratic system to produce flexible improvised performance. JEL codes:

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:unl:unlfep:wp537

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    1. Marie-Claude Boudreau & Daniel Robey, 2005. "Enacting Integrated Information Technology: A Human Agency Perspective," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 16(1), pages 3-18, February.
    2. Gersick, Connie J. G. & Hackman, J. Richard, 1990. "Habitual routines in task-performing groups," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 65-97, October.
    3. Dosi, G & Egidi, M, 1991. "Substantive and Procedural Uncertainty: An Exploration of Economic Behaviours in Changing Environments," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 145-168, April.
    4. Cohen, Michael D, et al, 1996. "Routines and Other Recurring Action Patterns of Organizations: Contemporary Research Issues," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(3), pages 653-698.
    5. Brian T. Pentland & Martha S. Feldman, 2005. "Organizational routines as a unit of analysis," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(5), pages 793-815, October.
    6. 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.
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