Organizational Routines
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Organizational Routines

Advancing Empirical Research

Edited by Markus C. Becker and Nathalie Lazaric

This book showcases advanced empirical research that applies the concept of organizational routines to understanding organizations and how they change and evolve.
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Chapter 8: Uncovering Inertia: Ambiguity between Formal Rules and Routines of Interaction

Martijn van der Steen


Martijn van der Steen INTRODUCTION Institutional change arises from interactions between rules and routines (Burns and Scapens, 2000). However, both institutions1 and routines are considered to display a degree of resistance to change. This resistance to change is often attributed to the presence of inertia. But so far, the notion of inertia has been used to a limited extent in studies of institutional change. Rules and routines are known to interact, but how inertia intervenes in this interaction is not explored in any great length. This chapter aims to explore the emergence of inertia between formal rules (as embedded in the management control system) and routines. In particular, it will discuss how ambiguity in the dialectic of rules and routines is one way in which inertia can emerge. Drawing on a case study of the Dutch cooperative Rabobank, we will illustrate two instances where we found ambiguity in the rules–routines dialectic. The discussion of these two instances illustrates particular ways in which inertia can arise from the ambiguity caused by changes in the rules–routines dialectic. Next, the chapter will present a theoretical section, which will first discuss rules and routines. Then, it will define routines as ‘scripts of interaction’ and explain the relevance of this focus on scripts. Finally, the section will expand on inertia and why ambiguity can give rise to inertia in the context of rules and routines. Then, the following section will introduce the Dutch Rabobank, the setting in which the two instances of...

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