The dynamics of prioritizing: How actors temporally pattern complex role-routine ecologies

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


This paper examines the emergence of temporal coordination among multiple interdependent routines in a complex work setting that does not allow for up-front scheduling. We propose that when actors continuously have to prioritize their expected contributions to multiple interdependent routines, they address this challenge by orienting not just toward routines but also toward person-roles. Drawing on an ethnographic study of an agile consulting project team confronted with continued scheduling failures, we demonstrate how the dynamics of prioritizing enabled the actors to resolve what at first appeared to be an irresolvable and highly complex problem of temporal coordination. We add to the literature on routine dynamics and temporality by setting forth the dynamics of prioritizing as an explanation for the temporal patterning of complex work settings. We introduce the notion of role–routine ecologies as a novel way to conceptualize such complex work settings and contribute to developing a performative theory of person-roles and their significance for coordinating.
ZeitschriftAdministrative Science Quarterly
Seiten (von - bis)339-379
Anzahl der Seiten41
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 06.2021

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We are truly indebted to Associate Editor John Wagner and three exceptional anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback throughout the review process. We wish to thank Stewart Clegg, Katharina Dittrich, Brian Pentland, Thomas Schmidt, Dennis Schoeneborn, Jörg Sydow, and Jun Xiao, as well as the members of the Routines.Research.Community and the participants of the EGOS Colloquium 2016 in Naples for their highly valuable feedback on earlier versions of the paper. BestAdvise provided us with exceptional research access that made this study possible. We are grateful to all BestAdvise employees who supported our project and participated in this study. Finally, we also wish to thank the German Research Foundation (DFG), which provided the second author with a generous scholarship during the data collection process and beyond.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.