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

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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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)339-379
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 06.2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

    Research areas

  • Management studies - work, rolle, routine, interdependence, conflict, cooperation, ecology