Today, organizational leaders increasingly leverage technology as a restructuring force to achieve greater efficiency and competitive positioning. This technology shapes the environmental conditions within which organizations operate and through the need to align with such conditions, affects organizational characteristics and behaviours. This study generates new insights into the common problem of unexpected group behaviour in response to technology initiated change by exploring the disruption and renewal of an organizational routine. This research bridges aspects of organizational routines, dialectic change theory, and information systems literature to contribute new understandings about the micro-processes that generate the divergent performance variation events often seen as contributing to the unpredictability associated with technology initiated organizational change.
Through an in-depth qualitative analysis of a health information system introduction at a large research hospital located in Ottawa, Canada, we demonstrate how a dialectic modalities lens provides new insights into agent driven organizational routine repair and renewal. We then show how two dimensions of dialectics (performative<->ostensive and performative<->environmental) act independently to produce varying levels of dialectic tension that motivate variation and change in the performance of an organizational routine. This work adapts the emerging work on dialectics of organizational change to conceive of dialectic change as a generator of variation and change within organizational routines and suggests that dialectic tension is a key driver of organizational routine change. To account for this, we introduce a new concept and model - "Dialectic Modalities of Routine Change" - to describe the four combinations of dialectic tension that can occur in the performance and enactment of a routine.
It is our position that greater understanding and focus on routine disruption and renewal will ultimately assist managers in improving practice and can provide a deeper theoretical understanding of organizational change processes. Moreover, this study's collected narrative approach to identifying a routine in practice opens new opportunities to explore enacted routine structure in sensitive environments often difficult to access for sufficient levels of observation. Finally, this research also makes important contributions to routines theory through the theoretical exploration of micro-foundational dynamics of routine change.
Keywords: Organizational Routines, IT Usage, Organizational Change, Technochange