Transformational Routines as Units of Analysis: How Transformational Routines Shape Fields

Lauri Paavola, Richard Cuthbertson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientificpeer-review


In this paper we explore the relationships among transformational routines, organizations, and fields. Existing theories of field transformations tend to focus on continuous processes and remain on the macro-level, and organizational routines are seen mostly as an impediment to adaptation to technological discontinuities due to their relative rigidity. By contrast, we show that transformational routines can in fact act in a dual role as both organization-level units of analysis and drivers of field evolution. We conduct an analysis of the field of UK grocery retailing and focus on specific transformational routines that have been the sole means of grocery retailers to understand the behavior of a mass of individual customers. We show how the differences among these specific routines have provided organizations with varied understandings of their surrounding environment, resulting in varying paths of development. We partially explain this variance by looking at the institutional mindset within which the analyzed routines operate, proposing that for them to be most effective in terms of potential transformation, there exists an optimal distance of embeddedness between the bodies governing the execution of the transformational routines and the bodies making the strategic decisions. In analyzing the effectiveness of transformational routines, we emphasize the importance of understanding the aggregate influence of the institutional mindset in differentiating the performative aspect of a routine from the ostensive one.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventAcademy of Management Annual Meeting: Making Organizations Meaningful - Anaheim, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20169 Aug 2016
Conference number: 76


ConferenceAcademy of Management Annual Meeting
Abbreviated titleAOM
CountryUnited States

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