Exploring Routine Ecologies – A Characterization and Integration of Different Perspectives on Routines (doctoral thesis)

Organizational routines are a relevant concept in management studies, because they can be used to explain a variety of empirical phenomena. A central endeavor in research on organizational routines lies in characterizing and explaining bundles of multiple, interconnected routines, i.e., ‘routine ecologies’. Scholars who have approached the routines concept, however, hold different assumptions about routines. As a consequence, different perspectives on routines have emerged. These underlying assumptions also influence the development of research on routine ecologies within these perspectives.

The purpose of my thesis is to advance research on routine ecologies. It builds on the conviction that progress in exploring routine ecologies requires sensitivity toward the assumptions that different scholarly communities hold about the routines concept. The thesis achieves its purpose by first depicting the historical development of research on routines in order to show how different perspectives on routines emerged. These perspectives are termed the cognitive, practice and capability perspectives, and are characterized and compared according to five important criteria: the main interest of the routines concept, the conceptualization of actors, assumptions about stability and change of routines, conceptualization of routine ecologies, and predominant empirical approaches.

The thesis applies the routine ecology concept to three different scientific questions. Each application is situated in one of the three perspectives.

The application of routine ecologies in the cognitive perspective deals with the question how an organizational transactive memory system can be conceptualized. Even though prior research has emphasized the relevance of such an organizational transactive memory system, a coherent unit of analysis to conceptualize such a system is still missing. The thesis proposes that routine ecologies serve as a coherent unit of analysis to conceptualize an organizational transactive memory system. It shows that routine ecologies depict both complex organizational structures as well as cognitive-transactive processes. Moreover, the thesis proposes that a transactive memory system that develops in a routine ecology is an organizational transactive memory system.

The application of routine ecologies in the capability perspective explains how entrepreneurial initiatives represent a microfoundation of dynamic capabilities. Although prior research has acknowledged that dynamic capabilities are both routinized and entrepreneurial in nature, it is currently unclear how these two seemly opposing aspects relate to each other. Taking a multi-level approach, the thesis differentiates between the organizational, the group and the individual level. Operative capabilities are analytically disaggregated into routine ecologies on the group and individual level. This conceptual move enables an explanation of how entrepreneurial initiatives emerge and operate in light of operative routines, and hence how they can underpin dynamic capabilities.

The application of routine ecologies in the practice perspective analyzes how open-ended processes and routine ecologies interact. The analysis is based on an extensive ethnographic study of software development teams in a medium-sized company, who enact the ‘Scrum’ framework. The analysis shows that the unfolding of open-ended software development processes and routines are in a dynamic interplay that influences how routines connect to each other. Hence, how multiple routines connect cannot be explained by serendipity, nor predominantly explained by organizational design, but can rather be explained by the unfolding of open-ended processes.

Subsequently, the thesis defines the content-related focus as well as the major challenge of each perspective in exploring the concept of routine ecologies. The three applications of routine ecologies are used to reflect, illustrate and clarify these propositions. The thesis advances a conceptual framework that helps to better integrate research on routines and routine ecologies. The conceptual framework does not propose the dissolution of the three perspectives, since this might neither be valuable nor applicable in practice, but proposes three specific processes – i.e., broadening, simplifying and enriching – that show how the perspectives can be mutually beneficial in over-coming their specific challenges.

The thesis contributes to research on routines in multiple ways. First, it brings to the awareness of scholars, the various underlying assumptions in research on routines. Second, it provides a strategy to deal with the different assumptions in routines research, and simultaneously foster knowledge fertilization across perspectives. Third, this thesis provides a basis to further explore the concept of routine ecologies by outlining how the perspectives can inspire each other. Implications for managerial practice are delineated. The thesis concludes by predicting the future development of research on organizational routines, and routine ecologies more specifically.

How Individuals Perform Customer Knowledge Absorption Practices – A Contextual Approach to Open Innovation

In this article co-authored with Martin Rost and Birgit Renzl we address research on open innovation. The purpose of the article is to sensitize scholars and practitioners to the argument that the open innovation paradigm includes a variety of different practices that are quite different from each other. Hence, scholars should be aware of these differences. We develop a framework which includes different practices and a variety of contextual factors that enable or constrain these practices. Subsequently, we apply the framework to a case study of a pharmaceutical packaging machines company. The article has been published in International Journal of Technology Management.

The article is available at Inderscience.

Entrepreneurial Initiatives as a Microfoundation of Dynamic Capabilities

In this article, co-authored with Birgit Renzl, we develop a model of how entrepreneurial initiatives change existing operational routines and, hence, serve as microfoundations of dynamic capabilities. We develop a conceptual model that strives to explain those dynamics. While we build on the capability perspective of organizational routines, this article provides a way to understand how individuals change those operative routines and capabilities. The article contributes to research that connects strategic management and entrepreneurship research as well as microfoundations research.

The article has been published in “Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change”. It is available on the journal website as well as in Opus.

Wie können Wissensmanagementsysteme nutzerorientiert gestaltet werden? Die Rolle organisationaler Routinen (German)

In this article co-authored with Michael Gabler we argue that organizational routines are a suitable means to design efficient knowledge management systems in organizations. This is due to the properties of routines that are conducive of knowledge sharing. We hope that our article inspires practitioners to consider rationales other than formal structures when designing and analyzing their knowledge management systems.

The article has been published in “HMD – Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik” and is available on the journal website. A pre-print is available here: Mahringer 2018 Wie können Wissensmanagementsysteme nutzerorientiert gestaltet werden HMD.

Scrum (German)

This short article gives a brief overview of the Scrum framework – Scrum events, rules and roles. It has been published in “WISU – Das Wirtschaftsstudium”. This article has been written for practitioners, students and researchers who would like to capture”Scrum in a nutshell”.

Agilität in wissensintensiven Organisationen: von der Produkt-zur Dienstleistungsorientierung (German)

In this article co-authored with Birgit Renzl and Michael Gabler we elaborate on how organizations might become agile. After defining what agility means, we identify three building blocks of how practitioners might increase their organization’s agility: Formally designing ambidextrous structures, fostering networks that bridge those structures and changing organizational culture to support knowledge exchange.

This article has been published in “IM+io” and is available in Opus.

Medicus Adaptabilis – Wenn Fachwissen alleine nicht mehr ausreichend ist (German)

In this article co-authored with Michael Gabler, Patrick Metzger, Birgit Renzl we plead for a shift in mind of physicians’ trainings. We argue that professional competencies are not sufficient anymore, but that doctors nowadays require profound social competencies. We also show how competency management might support these new requirements.

The article has been published in “Zeitschrift für Führung und Personalmanagement in der Gesundheitswirtschaft“ and is available on the journal website as well as in Opus.

Internationale Personalentsendungen als strategischer Erfolgsfaktor (German)

„Internationale Personalentsendungen als strategischer Erfolgsfaktor“ is a book chapter that strives to help practitioners to successfully perform expatriation processes. The chapter first explains the strategic relevance of expatriation processes and then identifies criteria that are vital for the successful performance of those processes.

The chapter has been published in the book “Urnik, S./Pfeil, W. (2015). Internationale Personalentsendungen. Chancen und Risiken aus Management- und Rechtsperspektive. Wien: Manz” and a pre-print is available in Opus.