Handbook of Organizational Routines

Handbook of Organizational Routines

Elgar original reference

Edited by Markus C. Becker

This cutting-edge, multidisciplinary Handbook comprises specially commissioned contributions surveying state-of-the-art research on the concept of organizational routines. An authoritative overview of the concept of organizational routines and its contributions to our understanding of organizations is presented. To identify those contributions, the role of organizational routines in such processes as organizational learning, performance feedback, and organizational memory is discussed. To identify how the concept can contribute to different disciplinary fields, the expert authors review applications across a range of fields including political science, sociology, and accounting.

Chapter 13: Issues in Empirical Field Studies of Organizational Routines

Brian T Pentland and Martha S. Feldman

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, economics and finance, evolutionary economics, industrial organisation


13 Issues in empirical field studies of organizational routines1 Brian T. Pentland and Martha S. Feldman Introduction In organizational research, the most familiar units of analysis are individuals, groups, establishments and organizations. These units have relatively clear boundaries, which make them observable, distinguishable, comparable and countable. By comparison, organizational routines are difficult to observe, distinguish, compare and count. In this chapter, we draw on our own fieldwork experiences as a basis for reflecting on the issues of studying organizational routines through empirical field studies.2 We focus on two very basic issues: identification (White, 1992) and comparison (Ragin, 1987). Identification involves recognizing empirical instances of a routine, the parts as well as the whole. Comparison can be cross-sectional (involving different routines), or longitudinal (involving changes in the same routine over time). Together, identification and comparison form the foundation for all empirical work on routines. We begin with a ‘confessional’ (Van Maanen, 1988): a behind-the-scenes look at our own research process on routines. Our experiences and observations, and those of other field researchers, have led us to conceptualize organizational routines as generative systems rather than fixed things (Feldman and Pentland, 2003). With this conceptual framework as a guide, we discuss how identification and comparison apply to organizational routines. Issues such as point of view and concurrency can make identification and comparison particularly problematic when conducting field research on routines. Where appropriate, we draw upon examples of how these issues have been handled in existing...

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