Rethinking the Agility Puzzle – Toward an Understanding of Endogenous Dynamics in Becoming Agile



Published Dec 16, 2021
Florian Ritter Anja Danner-Schröder Gordon Müller-Seitz


Extant research on organizational agility leans more toward flexibility in the face of environmental changes and dynamics. Although such a view is needed and seems plausible initially, it lacks a thorough theoretical underpinning that explains how agility is actually enacted endogenously in the form of effortful and emergent accomplishments. By drawing on research on routine dynamics, we seek to offer an emergent and endogenous understanding of routines that allows for theorizing the underlying dynamics and mechanisms of organizational agility. Therefore, we consider routine dynamics insights to theorize organizational agility and, thus, uncover the emergent unfolding of agility.

How to Cite

Ritter, F., Danner-Schröder, A., & Müller-Seitz, G. (2021). Rethinking the Agility Puzzle – Toward an Understanding of Endogenous Dynamics in Becoming Agile. Journal of Competences, Strategy & Management, 11, 1–14.
Abstract 205 | PDF Downloads 212



Organizational agility, organizational routines, endogenous dynamics, becoming agile

Aghina, W., De Smet, A., & Weerda, K. (2016). Agility: It rhymes with stability. McKinsey Quarterly, 1–12.
Bäcklander, G. (2019). Doing complexity leadership theory: How agile coaches at Spotify practise enabling leadership. Creativity and Innovation Management, 28(1), 42–60.
Baškarada, S., & Koronios, A. (2018). The 5S organizational agility framework: A dynamic capabilities perspective. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 26(2), 331–342.
Berente, N., Lyytinen, K., Yoo, Y., & King, J. L. (2016). Routines as shock absorbers during organizational transformation: Integration, control, and NASA’s enterprise information system. Organization Science, 27(3), 551–572.
Bernardes, E. S., & Hanna, M. D. (2009). A theoretical review of flexibility, agility and responsiveness in the operations management literature. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 29(1), 30–53.
Bertels, S., Howard-Grenville, J. A., & Pek, S. (2016). Cultural molding, shielding, and shoring at Oilco: The role of culture in the integration of routines. Organization Science, 27(3), 573–593.
Bucher, S., & Langley, A. (2016). The interplay of reflective and experimental spaces in interrupting and reorienting routine dynamics. Organization Science, 27(3), 594–613.
Chan, C. M., Teoh, S. Y., Yeow, A., & Pan, G. (2019). Agility in responding to disruptive digital innovation: Case study of an SME. Information Systems Journal, 29(2), 436–455.
Conboy, K. (2009). Agility from first principles: Reconstructing the concept of agility in information systems development. Information Systems Research, 20(3), 329–354.
Danner-Schröder, A., & Geiger, D. (2016). Unravelling the motor of patterning work: Toward an understanding of the microlevel-dynamics of standardization and flexibility. Organization Science, 27(3), 633–658.
Deken, F., Carlile, P. R., Berends, H., & Lauche, K. (2016). Generating novelty through interdependent routines: A process model of routine work. Organization Science, 27(3), 659–677.
Denning, S. (2016). How to make the whole organization “Agile”. Strategy & Leadership, 44(4), 10–17.
Dingsøyr, T., Moe, N. B., & Seim, E. A. (2018). Coordinating knowledge work in multiteam programs: Findings from a large-scale agile development program. Project Management Journal, 49(6), 64–77.
Dittrich, K., Guérard, S., & Seidl, D. (2016). Talking about routines: The role of reflective talk in routine change. Organization Science, 27(3), 678–697.
Dittrich, K., & Seidl, D. (2018). Emerging intentionality in routine dynamics: A pragmatist view. Academy of Management Journal, 61(1), 111–138.
Doz, Y. L. (2020). Fostering strategic agility: How individual executives and human resource practices contribute. Human Resource Management Review, 30(1), 100693.
Doz, Y. L., & Kosonen, M. (2010). Embedding strategic agility. Long Range Planning, 43(2-3), 370–382.
Eisenhardt, K. M., & Martin, J. A. (2000). Dynamic capabilities: What are they? Strategic Management Journal, 21(10-11), 1105–1121.
Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 962–1023.
Farjoun, M. (2010). Beyond dualism: Stability and change as a duality. Academy of Management Review, 35(2), 202–225.
Feldman, M. S. (2000). Organizational routines as a source of continuous change. Organization Science, 11(6), 611–629.
Feldman, M. S. (2003). A performative perspective on stability and change in organizational routines. Industrial & Corporate Change, 12(4), 727–752.
Feldman, M. S. (2016). Routines as process: Past, present and future. In J. A. Howard-Grenville, C. Rerup, A. Langley, & H. Tsoukas (Eds.), Organizational routines: How they are created, maintained, and changed (pp. 23–46). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Feldman, M.S., Pentland, B.T., D’Adderio, L., Dittrich, K., Rerup, C., & Seidl, S. (2021). Cambridge handbook of routine dynamics. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press.
Feldman, M. S., & Orlikowski, W. J. (2011). Theorizing practice and practicing theory. Organization Science, 22(5), 1240–1253.
Feldman, M. S., & Pentland, B. T. (2003). Reconceptualizing organizational routines as a source of flexibility and change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48(1), 94–118.
Feldman, M. S., Pentland, B. T., D’Adderio, L., & Lazaric, N. (2016). Beyond routines as things: Introduction to the special issue on routine dynamics. Organization Science, 27(3), 505–513.
Foss, N. J. (2021). The impact of the Covid‐19 pandemic on firms’ organizational designs. Journal of Management Studies, 58(1), 270–274.
Geiger, D., Danner-Schröder, A., & Kremser, W. (2021). Getting ahead of time - Performing temporal boundaries to coordinate routines under temporal uncertainty. Administrative Science Quarterly, 66(1), 220–265.
Glaser, V. L. (2017). Design performances: How organizations inscribe artifacts to change routines. Academy of Management Journal, 60(6), 2126–2154.
Goh, K. T., & Pentland, B. T. (2019). From actions to paths to patterning: Toward a dynamic theory of patterning in routines. Academy of Management Journal, 62(6), 1901–1929.
Helfat, C. E., Finkelstein, S., Mitchell, W., Peteraf, M. A., Singh, H., & Winter, S. G. (2007). Dynamic capabilities: Understanding strategic change in organizations. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publ.
Howard-Grenville, J. A. (2005). The persistence of flexible organizational routines: The role of agency and organizational context. Organization Science, 16(6), 618–636.
Jarzabkowski, P., Lê, J. K., & Feldman, M. S. (2012). Toward a theory of coordinating: Creating coordinating mechanisms in practice. Organization Science, 23(4), 907–927.
Langley, A., & Tsoukas, H. (2016). Introduction: Process thinking, process theorizing and process researching. In A. Langley & H. Tsoukas (Eds.), The Sage handbook of process organization studies (pp. 1–25). Los Angeles, London, New Delhi: Sage.
Lee, O.‑K., Sambamurthy, V., Lim, K. H., & Wei, K. K. (2015). How does IT ambidexterity impact organizational agility? Information Systems Research, 26(2), 398–417.
Lu, & Ramamurthy, K. (2011). Understanding the Link Between Information Technology Capability and Organizational Agility: An Empirical Examination. MIS Quarterly, 35(4), 931–954.
March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71–87.
Muduli, A. (2016). Exploring the facilitators and mediators of workforce agility: An empirical study. Management Research Review, 39(12), 1567–1586.
Nelson, R. R., & Winter, S. G. (1982). An evolutionary theory of economic change. Cambridge: Belknap Press.
Nijssen, M., & Paauwe, J. (2012). HRM in turbulent times: How to achieve organizational agility? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(16), 3315–3335.
Park, Y., Sawy, O. E., & Fiss, P. (2017). The role of business intelligence and communication technologies in organizational agility: A configurational approach. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 18(9), 648–686.
Parmigiani, A., & Howard-Grenville, J. A. (2011). Routines revisited: Exploring the capabilities and practice perspectives. Academy of Management Annals, 5(1), 413–453.
Pentland, B. T., & Feldman, M. S. (2005). Organizational routines as a unit of analysis. Industrial and Corporate Change, 14(5), 793–815.
Pentland, B. T., & Feldman, M. S. (2008). Designing routines: On the folly of designing artifacts, while hoping for patterns of action. Information and Organization, 18(4), 235–250.
Pentland, B. T., Haerem, T., & Hillison, D. (2011). The (n)ever-changing world: Stability and change in organizational routines. Organization Science, 22(6), 1369–1383.
Pentland, B. T., Mahringer, C. A., Dittrich, K., Feldman, M. S., & Wolf, J. R. (2020). Process multiplicity and process dynamics: Weaving the space of possible paths. Organization Theory, 1(3), 1-21.
Pentland, B. T., & Rueter, H. H. (1994). Organizational routines as grammars of action. Administrative Science Quarterly, 39(3), 484–510.
Puranam, P., Alexy, O., & Reitzig, M. (2014). What’s “new” about new forms of organizing? Academy of Management Review, 39(2), 162–180.
Rerup, C., & Feldman, M. S. (2011). Routines as a source of change in organizational schemata: The role of trial-and-error learning. Academy of Management Journal, 54(3), 577–610.
Saha, N., Gregar, A., & Sáha, P. (2017). Organizational agility and HRM strategy: Do they really enhance firms’ competitiveness? International Journal of Organizational Leadership, 6, 323–334.
Sambamurthy, V., Bharadwaj, A., & Grover, V. (2003). Shaping agility through digital options: Reconceptualizing the role of information technology in contemporary firms. MIS Quarterly, 27(2), 237–263.
Schilke, O., Hu, S., & Helfat, C. E. (2018). Quo vadis, dynamic capabilities? A content-analytic review of the current state of knowledge and recommendations for future research. Academy of Management Annals, 12(1), 390–439.
Schreyögg, G., & Sydow, J. (2010). Crossroads: Organizing for fluidity? Dilemmas of new organizational forms. Organization Science, 21(6), 1251–1262.
Seidl, D., & Whittington, R. (2021). How crisis reveals the structures of practices. Journal of Management Studies, 58(1), 240–244.
Sele, K., & Grand, S. (2016). Unpacking the dynamics of ecologies of routines: Mediators and their generative effects in routine interactions. Organization Science, 27(3), 722–738.
Sherehiy, B., & Karwowski, W. (2014). The relationship between work organization and workforce agility in small manufacturing enterprises. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 44(3), 466–473.
Singh, J., Sharma, G., Hill, J., & Schnackenberg, A. (2013). Organizational agility: What it is, what it is not, and why it matters. Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, 11813, 1–40.
Sonenshein, S. (2016). Routines and creativity: From dualism to duality. Organization Science, 27(3), 739–758.
Srivastava, P., & Jain, S. (2017). A leadership framework for distributed self-organized Scrum teams. Team Performance Management, 23(5/6), 293–314.
Strode, D. E., Huff, S. L., Hope, B., & Link, S. (2012). Coordination in co-located agile software development projects. Journal of Systems and Software, 85(6), 1222–1238.
Sydow, J., & Braun, T. (2018). Projects as temporary organizations: An agenda for further theorizing the interorganizational dimension. International Journal of Project Management, 36(1), 4–11.
Tallon, P. P., & Pinsonneault, A. (2011). Competing perspectives on the link between strategic information technology alignment and organizational agility: insights from a mediation model. MIS Quarterly, 35(2), 463–486.
Tallon, P. P., Queiroz, M., Coltman, T., & Sharma, R. (2019). Information technology and the search for organizational agility: A systematic review with future research possibilities. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 28(2), 218–237.
Teece, D. J., Peteraf, M. A., & Leih, S. (2016). Dynamic capabilities and organizational agility: Risk, uncertainty, and strategy in the innovation economy. California Management Review, 58(4), 13–35.
Teece, D. J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. (1997). Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18(7), 509–533.
Teece, D. J. (2007). Explicating dynamic capabilities: The nature and microfoundations of (sustainable) enterprise performance. Strategic Management Journal, 28(13), 1319–1350.
Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002). On organizational becoming: Rethinking organizational change. Organization Science, 13(5), 567–582.
Turner, S. F., & Rindova, V. P. (2012). A balancing act: How organizations pursue consistency in routine functioning in the face of ongoing change. Organization Science, 23(1), 24–46.
Turner, S. F., & Rindova, V. P. (2018). Watching the clock: Action timing, patterning, and routine performance. Academy of Management Journal, 61(4), 1253–1280.
Volberda, H. W. (1996). Toward the flexible form: How to remain vital in hypercompetitive environments. Organization Science, 7(4), 359–374.
Walter, A.‑T. (2021). Organizational agility: Ill-defined and somewhat confusing? A systematic literature review and conceptualization. Management Review Quarterly, 72, 343–391.
Wenzel, M. (2021). Transcending adaptation: Toward an examination of market-shaping capabilities as a sub-capability of organizational agility. Journal of Competences, Strategy & Management, 11, 1-12.
Wenzel, M., Danner-Schröder, A., & Spee, A. P. (2021). Dynamic capabilities? Unleashing their dynamics through a practice perspective on organizational routines. Journal of Management Inquiry, 30(4), 395-406.
Winter, S. G. (2003). Understanding dynamic capabilities. Strategic Management Journal, 24(10), 991–995.
Worley, C. G., & Lawler, E. E. (2010). Agility and organization design. Organizational Dynamics, 39(2), 194–204.
Research article