Replication of Routines in Organizations: Existing Literature and New Perspectives


  • Martin Friesl,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Strategic Management, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YX, UK
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  • Joanne Larty

    1. Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YX, UK
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  • The authors are indebted to several colleagues who commented on earlier versions of their paper and who helped to improve the arguments they are making. These are Julia Balogun, Kathryn Fahy, Judith Friesl and Markus Vanharanta. The authors would also like to thank the participants of the Lancaster University Management School Inaugural Research Conference 2010 for their comments. An earlier version of the paper was also nominated for the Best Paper and Best Practice Implications Award at the Annual Meeting of the Strategic Management Society in Rome, 2010. This research is supported by the Early Career Research Grant Scheme of Lancaster University.



Replication of existing routines in new contexts is an important value-creating strategy for organizations. This paper synthesizes the state of research on replication and organizes the literature around two broad themes: forward knowledge flows (i.e. from a replicator to a replicatee) and reverse knowledge flows. The authors show that the theoretical assumptions of existing research leave important questions around the replication of routines unaddressed. More specifically, they identify research gaps in regard to micro-level processes of replication. Little is understood about the performance of routines in practice and, related to that, the processes through which routines change during replication. Drawing on recent theorizing on organizational routines, in particular the relationship between the ostensive and performative aspects, helps the authors to unpack the micro-level processes of forward and reverse knowledge flows. This paper opens two new trajectories for research on replication: (1) a focus on the actions of individual actors in the enactment of organizational routines provides new possibilities for understanding how replication is an inherently political process; (2) conceptualizing change as endogenous within the performance of routines offers a route to a more nuanced understanding of change and deviation in the process of replication. The paper closes with a summary of major theoretical arguments, questions for further research and implications for practitioners.