This document is presenting an evaluation of the article “The long and winding road: Routine creation and replication in multi-site organizations.” by Davies et al., published at Research Policy journal on 2018. In order to make a correct assessment, it has been chosen the guidelines of Weick (1989) and Whetten (1989). While at the same time, this evaluation has been organized according to the assessment criteria in 3 sections.
- Articulation of the phenomenon in question:
According to Weick (1989) “The problem statements that drive the theorizing process are more complex than they appear to be. Not only do they contain an anomaly to be explained, but they also contain a set of assumptions that can be confirmed or disconfirmed, a set of domain words that can be connected differently”. In that sense, this section will be addressing both the anomaly which in this is case is known as a gap on the literature and the assumptions carried along the phenomena presented.
There are at least 2 claims in relation to the phenomena examined by Davies et al. 2018: Firstly, one phenomenon claim is been continuously established by the question of how routines are produced and established over time. A second claim is sharing some similarities with the previous one, but it is focused on how the routines require ‘rapid’ reproduction across different sites in a firm. This is related to the fast decision making in formulating new routines to changing market conditions.
Within the articulation of the phenomena, the authors went on in defining what is a routine from the point of view of organizational studies as a frequently executed behavioural patterns in a firm. Furthermore, a routine is more than just regular and predictable actions, they are also considered a way a company accumulates memories, applies skills and produces tacit knowledge. Likewise, a routine is also known as the building blocks of firm capabilities consistent enough across organizational areas.
Moving forward the phenomena stated, there are two main assumptions in which this work is establishing its framework. Initially, the existence of a gap considering that there is not enough research focused towards studying the life cycle of the creation and replication of routines as an integrated process. Additionally, the second assumption is that little research has tried to study empirically “how dynamic capabilities and operating routines interact in a hierarchical relationship during routine creation and stabilization” (Davies, et al. 2018, p. 1404).
2. Evaluation of the articulation of the theoretical contribution:
It seems that main objective of the article was to contribute into capabilities research, specifically on the processes involved in new routine creation and replication as well as its rapid reproduction across sites. After a lot of thought, it has come to the conclusion that Bacharach’s evaluation criteria might be inapplicable to Davies et al. articulation of the theoretical contribution. The main reason is that the notion of a variable is clearly incongruent with the work represented in the article, although there are constructs and variables stated, there is not a clear measurement to actually test falsifiability which determines whether a theory is constructed such that empirical refutation is viable. Not to mention that in order for a variable to fulfil the assessment criteria of operationally defined, it must be defined in terms of its own measurement, it seems that this was not the case on this paper. Nonetheless, it has been chosen to use a combination of Whetten (1989) and Weick (1989) criteria as a way to conduct a more thorough evaluation of the article:
- What: To begin, the variables found were the four sequential steps of new routine development: Envision, Experiment, Entrench and Enact. Furthermore, in the matter of definitions, it worth mention these variables seem to providing the simplest possible explanation for their specific phenomena in direct relation to the constructs and the theoretical contribution intended to establish by the authors.
In addition to this, there were 4 different constructs: the first two: Strategic units and Operational Units. These strategic units were defined as high-order dynamic capabilities with the purpose to promote new routines for widespread replication. While operational units are the result of continuous experiments done through trial and error. It is clear that within these units, the authors managed to associate the “who” which are the actors working in different organizational levels. The other two constructs were defined as Exploration and Exploitation, consideredas phasesin the routine creation and replication.
- How: the variables were seamlessly connected by definition as consecutive steps; one cannot occur without the preceding observed unit. Even more, the constructs were interconnected in specific moments of the four-step process of new routine development, for instance Strategic units only materialize in 1. Envision and 3. Entrench while Operational units take place on 2. Experiment and 4. Enact. The way the authors managed to articulate the “how” was consistent to Weick (1989, p. 517) views that any framework should feature relationships, connections, and interdependencies in the phenomenon of interest (see Fig 3.)
- When: the work presented on this article managed time within the constructs of Exploration and Exploitation. These are also considered of phases of the new routine development.
- Why: The manuscript provided a framework that integrates comprehensive understandings in the realm ofcapabilities research. Its relevance was outlining how different organizational levels (strategic and operational) manage to shape the development of new routines in a cognitive and behavioural way.
On this occasion it was chosen the views of Weick (1989, p. 517), who presents what a theory is: “As generalizations become more hierarchically ordered, behaviours and structures that are the focus of the generalizations become more generic, and as the range of specific instances that are explained becomes broader, the resulting ideas are more deserving of the label theory”. With that in mind, the theoretical contribution seems to berelevant and well-articulated for several reasons: to begin, propositions stated by the authors nicely links the constructs with the variables in a consistent way, providing a sense of hierarchy on each proposition by virtue of each phase of the framework. Another reason is that the researchers definitely articulated a plausible theory as they attempted to construct an interesting argument in new routine development coherent enough to be studied, while their mechanism of measuring each variable might be debatable, they managed to make a good narrative associated with presumed reality. Finally, one recommendation is that the authors could have defined the problem in a more explicit way. They focused so much on stating the gap on the literature that missed the opportunity to articulate a few paragraphs painting the story with questions not yet asked or answered, carrying a set of clear and non-obvious assumptions, which according to Weick (1989) problems are more complex than they appear to be while conducting the theorizing process.