Embodied organizational routines: Explicating a practice understanding

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alex Wright of The Open University, UK. Wright recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Embodied Organizational Routines: Explicating a Practice Understanding, which is currently free to read for a limited time.” Below, Wright reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

The recent interest in exploring organizational routines has increased our knowledge and understanding considerably, informing and enhancing how we view organization and organizing. In existing studies, people are acknowledged as contributing to the unfolding of routines when they are described as accomplished by specific people, at specific times, in specific places. My motivation for writing this study was to construct a deeper understanding of what is meant by specific people. Present research, I considered, held the view that while people were important they were inter-changeable without any discernable consequential impact on how routines progress. This was problematic for two reasons. First, I felt it reduced the human actors involved in routines to some machine-like existence. People have been shown to take part in organizational routines, but their influence had been largely underexplored. Second, the claim made that a practice theory of routines has been established always seemed to me to be premature. Too many empirical studies to date have been conducted at a level too abstract from where practice unfolds for such a claim to be accepted. Therefore, the two concerns that provoked my research were focused on the related issues of people and practice.6791821469_13fab38503_z.jpg

One assumption that underpinned my work was that people are inherently unstable. That is, their bodies differ. Routines, therefore, are accomplished by people with bodies, embodied actors, and their very embodiment makes a difference in how routines unravel. Such a nuanced appreciation of routines is only possible if the level of analysis focuses on the human and nonhuman relational inter-acting that sustains them. It is here where a practice understanding of routines can be formed. A further assumption I worked within is that bodies communicate and through such communication do routines emerge. This means that it is not just talk that matters, but gesture, facial expression, movement and silences can also be essential for routines to evolve. The empirical examples from such diverse situations as a police interrogation encounter and an operating theatre I use help illustrate this. A focus on embodied people takes us closer to the promise of a practice theory of routines as it helps depict how: power is exercised through gesture and bodily movement; the spaces where routines unfold cohere with human bodies making a difference in how they are constituted and experienced; and, the routineness of routines is made manifest when mutual intelligibility is discerned in the silences that characterize how embodied actors inter-relate.

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Communication photo attributed to shakakahnevan (CC).

This entry was posted in Management, Management Theory, organizational change, Organizational Development, Organizational Research by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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