NEW SSE DISSERTATION
Organisational routines are important building blocks of what organisations do. By following a new product development project in a large, multinational infrastructure provider, this thesis studies how process descriptions, conceptualised as artefactual routine representations, affect how routines are performed and developed over time. Process descriptions can be considered quite mundane and are often frowned upon. Comments such as “in this organisation things work despite of the process descriptions”, “if we were to follow the process descriptions, nothing would get done around here”, or just the simple “nobody follows the process anyway” are common. However, as this thesis shows, the relationship between organisational routines and their artefactual representations is more complex than that. Looking into how artefactual routine representations, such as process descriptions, are put into use in practice, this thesis found that even though the process descriptions were by no means treated as “the law”, they were also not ignored. Instead, even when they were not followed, they still affected what the actors did. The actors also found a way of dealing with process descriptions that were often considered poor representations of the new product development routine by separating working with the process description, artefact work, from working with the task of developing new products, task work. By performing the task as one routine and following the requirements of the process descriptions in another, the actors manage the tensions and conflicts that would otherwise arise between a dynamic task and a rigid representation. By selectively and dynamically connecting and disconnecting the task from the process description the actors can both follow and violate its requirements without losing legitimacy of either task or process description. The result is that they can maintain the stability provided by the process descriptions, while still be able to perform their job with the flexibility it requires. However, as tensions and conflicts are not exposed, the organisation might not recognise the need for change.