Prior research on organizational routines in the ‘capabilities’ literature has either studied how new routines are created during an exploratory process of variation and selection or how existing routines are replicated during a phase of exploitation. Few studies have analyzed the life cycle of new routine creation and replication as an integrated process. In an in-depth case study of England's Highways Agency, this paper shows that the creation and replication of a new routine across multiple sites involves four sequential steps: envisioning, experimenting, entrenching and enacting. We contribute to the capabilities research in two ways: first, by showing how different organizational levels, capabilities and logics (cognitive and behavioural) shape the development of new routines; and second, by identifying how distinct evolutionary cycles of variation and selective retention occur during each step in the process. In contrast with prior research on replication as an exact copy of a template or existing routine, our study focuses on the replication of an entirely new routine (based on novel principles) that is adapted to fit local operational conditions during its large-scale replication across multiple sites. We draw upon insights from adjacent ‘practice research’ and suggest how capabilities and practice studies may complement each other in future research on the evolution of routines.
- Organizational hierarchy