Shaping Elements While Maintaining Fit

Timo Ritakallio

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Organizational performance is a result of doing many activities well and consistently with one another. While existing research has recognized that the fit between organizational activities is an important determinant of success, there is a need for more study of the processes that organizations use to develop and maintain fit in the presence of environmental change. This thesis set out to elaborate theory on fit development. I used the previous theory as a starting point and to formulate open-ended research questions rather than specific hypotheses. I then used empirical material to build on top of the prior literature and to challenge the prior literature. I did this to extend and refine the existing theories on fit development. To investigate how strategic fit is developed over time and how emergent and behavioral processes might be related to the process of developing and maintaining fit between organizational elements, I conducted a longitudinal case study of one of the most successful European banks covering its performance from 2000 to 2011. I modeled the organization´s activities by using qualitative organizational-system maps to determine how the activities evolved over time and how the fit between them was maintained. My primary data source was public information about the company´s activities and these data were complemented by private interviews. In contrast to what the previous theory would suggest, I found that the company´s core elements themselves underwent major changes through a process that I call shaping, during which the elements´ relationships between one another continued to have a fit-like character. This highlights that to understand strategy as a constellation of organizational elements, it is not sufficient to focus on the relationships between the elements, one must also to be mindful of the qualitative nature of the elements themselves and changes in them. Many of these changes are better characterized as "emergent" rather than as "designed." My findings contribute to the research on the processes that allows companies to evolve toward fit. Siggelkow recognized four processes that a company uses: thickening, patching, coasting, and trimming. I identified a fifth one—shaping—which refers to the process of transforming a core element while maintaining its identity and relationships with other elements. My conclusion is that shaping strategic core elements is an essential way through which companies maintain fit between their core elements and yet transform and grow radically during the periods of volatility and turbulence in the surrounding environment. Therefore, my findings are essential for the research on the processes that allow companies to evolve toward fit.
Translated title of the contributionOrganisaation toimintojen muokkaaminen niiden yhteensopivuutta heikentämättä
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Vuori, Timo, Supervising Professor
  • Laamanen, Tomi, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7023-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7022-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • strategic fit
  • strategic change
  • activity systems
  • organizational elements
  • banking


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