Sub-theme 06: (SWG) Routines, Transfer and Transformation

Luciana D'Adderio
University of Strathclyde Business School, United Kingdom
Martha S. Feldman
University of California at Irvine, USA
Paula Jarzabkowski
Cass Business School, City University London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

As organizations become increasingly distributed and diverse, and products, technologies and services more complex and dispersed, there is mounting pressure to understand how work can be coordinated across geographical, cultural and intellectual distance, both within and across organizations (Jarzabkowski et al., 2012). As a result, questions arise about how organizational practices and routines can be transferred across organizational and geographic differences and over time.
The metaphor of transfer may conjure up an entity that is moved between two relatively stable contexts with the implications that practices are independent of their situated enactment (e.g., “best practices”) and can be transferred without being transformed (e.g. Rogers, 1995) by stabilizing a practice or routine as a ‘template’ for close reproduction (Winter & Szulanski, 2001). Social practice theory (e.g., Feldman & Orlikowski, 2011), however, provides two important ideas that alter our perspective on the transfer of routines. One of these is the potential for variation in the enactment of practices in situ (e.g. Suchman, 2007). The other is the idea that stability and change are not dichotomous states of being but mutually constituted processes (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002; Farjoun, 2010). From this perspective, transfer inevitably entails performance and transformation (Latour, 1986; Gherardi & Nicolini, 2000) despite the goal of precise reproduction.
Routine Dynamics (e.g., Feldman & Pentland, 2003; Feldman et al., 2016) has incorporated these ideas and focused attention on how routines (as practices) are enacted and, thus, created and re-created over time and across organizational locations through the actions of people and machines (See Organization Science special issue on Routine Dynamics, 2016). Transfer and replication are sociomaterial (Carlile, 2004; Orlikowski & Scott, 2008; Salvato & Rerup, 2014; Sele & Grand, 2016) and effortful accomplishments that must be enacted and re-enacted (Zbaracki & Bergen, 2010; D’Adderio, 2014; Bertels et al., 2016).

In our quest to explore the recreation and transformation of routines through transfer we encourage new perspectives which draw from current scholarly debates including – but not limited to – Organizational Theory, Practice Theory, Strategy as Practice, Process Theory and Institutional Theory. We invite theoretical and theoretically-informed empirical papers and methodological contributions that advance our understanding of the relationship between routines/practices and their contexts. We are particularly interested in papers based on case studies or empirically grounded theorizing, although we also welcome more conceptual-philosophical treatments, with a possible – although not exclusive – focus on the following topics:
  • Transferring ‘Best’ Practice. What is the role of formal descriptions of routines (such as “best” practices, standards) and templates (working examples) in shaping actions in routines?
  • Innovation, Replication and Transformation. How and how far are practices and routines shaped during transfer? What is the relationality of innovation/adaptation and replication?
  • Diversity and Performative Struggles. How do practices and routines change as they are (re)created at different sites by different agencies and through different artifacts?
  • Multiplicity and Ecologies. How are ecologies of routines (re)created and transferred? What is the relationship between multiple ostensive/performative patterns during transfer?
  • Artifacts and Materiality. How do artifacts/technologies enable/constrain the (re)production of routines? What is the role of artifacts as intermediaries/mediators?
  • Institutions and Logics. How do routines and institutional contexts shape one another? How do routines contribute to (re)creating the institutional contexts to which they are transferred?
  • Recreation and Recombination. What are the implications of mixing and matching routines from one organizational domain with those from another?
  • Time and Space. How are different spatial or temporal enactments of the routine coordinated?
  • Coordination and Interdependence. How is coordination of action enabled/inhibited during the transfer and (re)creation of routines and their patterns? How do interdependent patterns (ostensive/performative, within/across routines) shape the (re)creation of routines?
  • Knowledge and Expertise. What is the role of experts in the transfer of practices and routines? How does expertise shape routines by de/stabilizing knowledge during transfer?



  • Bertels, S., Howard-Grenville, J., & Pek, S. (2016): “Cultural Molding, Shielding, and Shoring at Oilco: The Role of Culture in the Integration of Routines.” Organization Science, 27 (3), 573–593.
  • Carlile, P.R. (2004): “Transferring, Translating, and Transforming: An Integrative Framework for Managing Knowledge Across Boundaries.” Organization Science, 15 (5), 555–568.
  • D’Adderio, L. (2014): “The Replication Dilemma Unravelled: How Organizations Enact Multiple Goals in Routines Transfer.” Organization Science, 25 (5), 1325–1350.
  • Farjoun, M. (2010): “Beyond dualism: Stability and change as a duality.” Academy of Management Review, 35 (2), 202–225.
  • Feldman, M.S., & Pentland, B.T. (2003): “Reconceptualizing organizational routines as a source of flexibility and change.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 48, 94–118.
  • Feldman, M.S., & Orlikowski, W.J. (2011): “Theorizing practice and practicing theory.” Organization Science, 22 (5), 1240–1253.
  • 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.
  • Gherardi, S., & Nicolini, D. (2000): “To transfer is to transform: The circulation of safety knowledge.” Organization, 7,(2), 329–348.
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Lê, J.K., & Feldman, M.S. (2012): “Toward a theory of coordinating: Creating coordinating mechanisms in practice.” Organization Science, 23 (4), 907–927.
  • Latour, B. (1986): “The powers of association.” In: J. Law (ed.): Power, Action and Belief. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 261–277.
  • Orlikowski, W.J., & Scott, S.V. (2008): “Sociomateriality: Challenging the separation of technology, work and organization.” Academy of Management Annals, 2 (1), 433–474.
  • Rogers, E. (1995): Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.
  • Salvato, C., & Rerup, C. (2014): “Routine regulation: Balancing contradictory goals in organizational routines.” Paper presented at the 20th Annual Organization Science Winter Conference, Sheraton Steamboat Springs Resort, Colorado, USA, February 6–9, 2014.
  • Suchman, L. (2007): Human Machine Configurations: Plans and Situated Action. Cambridge University Press.
  • Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002): “On organizational becoming: Rethinking organizational change.” Organization Science, 13 (5), 567–582.
  • Winter, S.G., & Szulanski, G. (2001): “Replication as strategy.” Organization Science, 12 (6), 730–743.
  • Zbaracki, M.J., & Bergen, M. (2010): “When truces collapse: A longitudinal study of price-adjustment routines.” Organization Science, 21 (5), 955–972.
Luciana D'Adderio is Reader in Management (Associate Professor, tenured) at Strathclyde Business School, UK. 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 is currently acting as a Senior Editor for the special issue of ‘Organization Science’ on “Routine Dynamics” (
Martha S. Feldman (Stanford University PhD, 1983; Honorary Doctorate in Economics, St. Gallen University, 2014) is the Johnson Chair for Civic Governance and Public Management at the University of California. She is best known for her work establishing the field of routine dynamics, which explores the internal dynamics of routines. She has received the ‘Administrative Science Quarterly's’ award for Scholarly Contribution (2009), the Academy of Management Practice Scholarship Award (2011), and the Academy of Management Distinguished Scholar Award from the Organization and Management Theory Division (2015).
Paula Jarzabkowski is Professor of Strategic Management at Cass Business School, City University London, UK. Her research focuses on strategy-as-practice in complex and pluralistic contexts, such as financial markets, and regulated telecommunications and energy markets, as well as third sector organizations. In 2005, she published the first book on strategy-as-practice, “Strategy as Practice: An Activity-Based Approach” (SAGE Publications), and her latest book, “Making a Market for Acts of God” was recently published by Oxford University Press.