Contextual embeddedness of replication of organizational routines: an analysis from the perspective of organizational ambidexterity

CHEN Yanliang1 GAO Chuang2

(1.International Business School, Shandong Technology and Business University, Yantai, Shandong, China 264005)
(2.College of Business Administration, Capital University of Economics and Business, Beijing, China 100070)

【Abstract】Replication of organizational routines, as a value creating strategy, is receiving extensive attention from the academia. The interaction and gaming between contexts and routines, which result in failed or ineffective replication, have become a critical subject relating to replication dilemma both in theory and practice. Traditional studies focused on external contexts and maintained analysis on replication of routines at the macro level. In this study, replication of organizational routines was considered as an endogenous political process. The working mechanism of individual entities and management discretion as endogenous contextual factors were emphasized, based on which, we tried to reveal the mechanism of contextual embeddedness during replication of routines at the micro level. Firstly, we reviewed the mechanism whereby replication of organizational routines relies on contexts. We then pointed out internal contextual embeddedness is the key to replication of organizational routines. Following that, we introduced a completely new unit of analysis, namely, characteristics of business units, to demonstrate and illustrate the magic power of organizational contexts during replication. Furthermore, we used rational calculation or emotional coupling and whether the top management team intervenes or let it be as two dimensions to describe business units’ characteristics and contextual differences during replication of routines. Two forms of replication of routines were differentiated and described in this study, namely, precise complete replication and adaptable drift of replication. They require different matching between exploitation and exploration capabilities in different contexts. Based on four paths to developing organizational ambidexterity, we created a model consisting of two dimensions and four quadrants to depict replication of organizational routines to achieve the adaptive matching between structural ambidexterity, contextual ambidexterity, leadership ambidexterity and integrated ambidexterity and organizational contexts (characteristics of business units), respectively.

【Keywords】 replication of routine; contextual embeddedness; business unit ; ambidexterity;


【Funds】 The National Social Science Fund of China (15CGL027) The National Social Science Fund of China (18VSJ084)

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(Translated by ZHANG Wei)


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This Article


CN: 11-1047/F

Vol 42, No. 03, Pages 89-101

March 2020


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Brief review of context-based theories about replication of organizational routines and determination of the study subject
  • 3 Analysis of characteristics of business units
  • 4 Replication of routines and organizational ambidexterity
  • 5 The matching mechanism among characteristics of business units, ambidexterity, and replication of organizational routines
  • 6 Conclusion and implication
  • References