SWG 06: Routines and Routine Dynamics


Martha S. Feldman, University of California at Irvine, USA
Brian T. Pentland, Michigan State University, USA
Luciana D’Adderio, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

SWG 06 was born out of the increasing popularity of the routine dynamics topic, as well as the desire to consolidate and expand both its important research agenda and the very diverse and vibrant international scholarly community which underpins it. The notion of “Routine Dynamics” (Feldman & Pentland, 2003; Feldman et al., 2016) builds on the idea that routines are practices with internal dynamics that contribute to both stability and change in organizations. Routines, when examined closely, do not seem like fixed or static objects. They are dynamic because they exist through a process of (re)production, over time and space, through the on-going effort of actants (people and things) which shape routines in fundamental ways (Pentland & Feldman, 2008; D’Adderio, 2008, 2011). Since its conception in the early 2000s, the field of Routine Dynamics has been growing steadily, producing substantial theoretical advances to the way we understand the workings of routines in organizations and beyond, as well as a substantial body of empirical evidence.

The aim of SWG 06 is to further our investigation into routines through studying the internal mechanisms by which they emerge as practices (Feldman, 2000; Feldman & Pentland, 2003).

Moving on from the early conceptualization of routines as automatic, dead or opaque black boxes, we advance a view which sees them as alive, embodying agency and the potential for change (Cohen, 2007; Pentland & Feldman, 2008). Empirical research and modeling of routine dynamics has extended our understanding of the role of routines in producing stability and change (Howard-Grenville, 2005; Levinthal & Rerup, 2006; D’Adderio, 2014; Zbaracki & Bergen, 2010; Rerup & Feldman, 2011; Pentland et al., 2011; Salvato & Rerup, 2011, 2018; Turner & Rindova, 2012; Pentland et al., 2012; see also articles in the Organization Science special issue on routine dynamics, 2016).
Over the first phase of this SWG (2014–2018), we have been able to develop a coherent set of concepts, vocabulary and methods. We are now seeking to apply these concepts and methods to challenging new problems and topics, as follows:
New Ways of Organizing. We start from the observation that recent trends in technology and innovation are prompting substantially new ways of organizing holding implications which to date are as yet poorly understood.

Further advances in routine dynamics can help us address the emergent challenges by capturing and theorizing practices and routines in increasingly complex, distributed and materially-enabled and -mediated domains. Example topics include:

  • The relationship between routines and innovation

  • New (technology enabled) forms of organizing

  • Innovation and creativity through digital technology

  • Transparency and responsibility in the era of automation

  • The influence of materiality on temporality and rhythm

Routines and Global Challenges. We want to examine the relationship between large-scale social phenomena and routine dynamics. Insights about routines could be applied to these global challenges, such as climate change. At the same time, these phenomena may challenge our ways of thinking about routines and routine dynamics. Here some example topics that would fit with this SWG:

  • Micro-macro connection across routines and their context

  • Practical impact of routines on organizations and institutions (rules, policies)

  • Routines as implements or impediments for change

  • Routines as regulating tipping points between incremental and radical change

  • Effects of routines on phenomena that occur over long temporal spans


  • Cohen, M.D. (2007): “Reading Dewey: Reflections on the Study of Routine.” Organization Studies, 28 (5), 773–786.
  • D’Adderio, L. (2008): “The performativity of routines: Theorising the influence of artefacts and distributed agencies on routines dynamics.” Research Policy, 37 (5), 769–789.
  • D’Adderio, L. (2011): “Artifacts at the centre of routines: performing the material turn in routines theory.” Journal of Institutional Economics, 7 (2), 197–230.
  • D’Adderio, L. (2014): “The Replication Dilemma Unravelled: How Organizations Enact Multiple Goals in Routines Transfer.” Organization Science, 25 (5), 1325–1350.
  • Feldman, M.S. (2000): “Organizational Routines as a Source of Continuous Change.” Organization Science, 11 (6), 611–629.
  • Feldman, M.S., & Pentland, B.T. (2003): “Reconceptualizing Organizational Routines as a Source of Flexibility and Change.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 48 (1), 94–118.
  • Feldman, M.S., Pentland, B.T., D’Adderio, L., & Lazaric, N. (2016): “Beyond Routines as Things: Introduction to the Special Issue on Routine Dynamics.” Organization Science, 27 (3), 505–513.
  • Howard-Grenville, J.A. (2005): “The Persistence of Flexible Organizational Routines: The Role of Agency and Organizational Context.” Organization Science, 16 (6), 618–636.
  • Levinthal, D.A., & Rerup, C. (2006): “Crossing an Apparent Chasm: Bridging Mindful and Less-Mindful Perspectives on Organizational Learning.” Organization Science, 17 (4), 502–513.
  • Pentland, B.T., & Feldman, M.S. (2008): “Designing routines: On the folly of designing artifacts, while hoping for patterns of action.” Information and Organization, 18 (4), 235–250.
  • Pentland, B.T, Haerem, T., & Hillison, D. (2011): “Comparing Organizational Routines as Recurrent Patterms of Action.” Organization Studies, 31 (7), 917–940.
  • Pentland, B.T., Feldman, M.S., Becker, M.C., & Liu, P. (2012): “Dynamics of Organizational Routines: A Generative Model.” Journal of Management Studies, 49 (8), 1484–1508.
  • Salvato, C., & Rerup, C. (2011): “Beyond Collective Entities: Multilevel Research on Organizational Routines and Capabilities.” Journal of Management, 37 (2), 468–490.
  • Salvato, C., & Rerup, C. (2018): “Routine Regulation: Balancing Conflicting Goals in Organizational Routines.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 63 (1), 170–209.
  • Rerup, C., & Feldman, M.S. (2011): “Routines as a Source of Change in Organizational Schemata: The Role of Trial-and-Error Learning.” Academy of Management Journal, 54 (3), 577–610.
  • Turner, S.F., & Rindova, V. (2012): “A Balancing Act: How Organizations Pursue Consistency in Routine Functioning in the Face of Ongoing Change.” Organization Science, 23 (1), 24–46.
  • Zbaracki, M.J., & Bergen, M. (2010): “When Truces Collapse: A Longitudinal Study of Price-Adjustment Routines.” Organization Science, 21 (5), 955–972.

About the Coordinators

Martha S. Feldman is the Johnson Chair for Civic Governance and Public Management at the University of California, Irvine, USA. Her research on organizational routines, inclusive public management and qualitative methods draws heavily on her ethnographic research and on practice theory. She is best known for her work establishing the field of routine dynamics, which explores the internal dynamics of routines. Martha has been a Senior Editor at Organization Science since 2006 and a Fellow of the Academy of Management since 2015.
Brian T. Pentland is the Main Street Capital Partners Endowed Professor in the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, USA. His creative work has appeared in Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management Studies, Management Science, MIS Quarterly, Organization Science, Organization Studies, YouTube and elsewhere. He served as co-convenor in the sub-themes on Routine Dynamics at the EGOS Colloquiua 2016 in Naples and 2018 in Tallinn.
Luciana D’Adderio is Chancellor's Fellow at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on the micro dynamics of organizational practices and routines, with an emphasis on the role of agency and materiality on their emergence, evolution and maintenance, codification, transfer and replication. Luciana is a member of the Organization Science Editorial Board and served as a Senior Editor for the Special Issue of Organization Science on ‘Routine Dynamics’ (routinedynamics.org).