Performative perspective on organisational change and stability: a case study of embodiment, inclusion, and temporality in changing routines in the Royal Air Force
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date21/07/2024
Modern organisations face constant disruptions in an ever-changing environment that continually challenges their steady state. Although stable routines and predictability are usually desirable traits to improve performance, the key for those organisations to survive is addressing the changes in their environment – it is a fine balancing act and, depending on the disruptions faced, organisations must choose how to respond. This three-paper based thesis builds on, and contributes to, the scholarly work of Routine Dynamics (RD), temporality, equality, and embodiment in Organisation Studies (OS) by presenting three research papers using the Royal Air Force (RAF) as its empirical context. While each paper looks at a different facet within the overall case study, together the thesis provides a tangible contribution to our understanding of management of change and pursuit of stability within RD and OS. In paper 1, I build on and contribute to the literature links between routine replication and embodiment within RD and OS. By studying the same training routine (a loaded march) in two different settings within the RAF, I observe and analyse the role played by the body in the replicated routine enactment. I use an innovative methodology within RD (enactive ethnography) by not only observing the phenomena but also participating in the loaded marches with the other cadets. I find that, although still recognisable, the routine is adapted to fit its new destination due to the differences in the trainees’ bodies. The findings improve our understanding of the mechanisms at the interplay between flexibility (change) and standardisation (stability or recognisability) in replication of routines, which co-existed and complemented each other through embodying routine replication dynamics. Paper 2 investigates the challenges associated with the inclusion of new organisational members to a long-established set of routines. I follow the first female officer intake into ground combat training within the RAF and focus on the transition from an all-male to a mixed-gender course. I find that, despite the attempts to incorporate adjustments to the course, the routine participants resist most of the changes. I argue that the ‘organisational character’ instilled in the role-based action patterning at the level of design and enactment of the routines contributes to the stability observed, despite the attempt to implement minor welfare changes in the inclusion of the new routine participants. In paper 3, I focus on unexpected events and RD. In 2020, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic which challenged the RAF and its ability to continue operating. I analyse the RAF Regiment’s response to its core routines’ breakdown caused by imposed national lockdowns. The paper shows how temporal orientation in improvising and enacting temporary routines defines permanent patterns of actions: when the dominant temporal orientation in enacting changes was projective (geared towards the future possibilities), temporary routines became permanent to serve revised goals after the lockdowns. However, when the dominant temporal orientation was geared towards the past, the routines reverted to the pre-pandemic patterns of action when the lockdown restrictions were lifted.