Article Critique on Changes in Organizational Routines

Subject: Management
Pages: 21
Words: 5746
Reading time:
21 min
Study level: PhD


Organizational routines are commonplace. They are found in most organizations regardless of the industry. In this critique of the article that deals with routine changes and the consequent behavior change, several elements will be employed (Kezar 2001, p.19). These elements include the problem statement and the purpose of the study, the stated or implied research questions that the research is trying to answer and the nature of the literature review. Nature in this case refers to whether it is comprehensive enough or shallow. It also refers to the learning of the reviewed sources. They can be leaning to one side or balanced.

Problem Statement

A good literature review is normally balanced. Other aspects that will be part of the critiques are the method employed in the research, the design of the research, the number of participants who were involved, the characteristics of the participants, and the target population. Also, the treatments given in any experiment involved will be examined, the timeline discussed, the analysis method critiqued, the way the results are reported discussed, the major findings given, the evident limitations of the study named and the future research commented on.

A routine can be described as an established way of carrying out a given task that is fairly permanent or unchanging. Routines can also be defined as sophisticated ways of responding to triggers that occur at known or set times (March& Simon 1958, p.141). When people get used to repetitively doing things for a long time without any reasonable change in the way it is done, the system of carrying out that particular task becomes routine.

In this article, Conley and Enomoto are out to investigate the behavior of individuals and groups who operate in a society that is characterized by routine work. The setting of the study is a California High School that is considered well-performing. Though not significant, it is noted that the school has a minority population of more than forty percent. Most of these minority students are Mexicans (Conley & Enomoto 2009, pp.365-367). Why do these two researchers give us the minority percentage of students in the school? Why should it be pointed out that Mexicans make the largest portion of the minority population? Is this helpful to the study?

Moving from the nature of the school as presented by the two researchers, it is important to point out that the theory that is used in examining routine change in this study is the organizational theory. This theory explains how people behave in the process of adjusting during routine shake-ups and why they behave the way they do (Newman 2002, p.32). What is the purpose of this study?

The purpose of this study is to examine the behavior of people involved in routine activities. The adjustments that take place when these routine activities or undertakings are disrupted are also a point of focus (Conley & Enomoto 2009, pp.365-366). The major research questions that are being answered in the study include: What are the examples of routine activities? What places are known for routine activities? How do people who engage in routine activities behave? What are the reactions shown by people who engage in routine activities when the routines are disrupted (Ivancevich & Konopaske2010.p. 23)? How long does it take people engaged in routines to adjust in case of change? Are routines advantageous in any way? Can routines cause operational problems in organizations? In a school setting, what are the most common routines? Who are the parties who do routine jobs in schools if any? How can the administration ensure that routines within the school’s settings do not interfere with change that is meant to give the school a new lease of life? How can routines affect the learning process in schools? How do teachers reach to changes in their routines? Between gradual and sudden changes to routines, which is the best form of change (Brown2010, p.11)?

Leaving the above aside, the literature that has been reviewed by Coley and Enomoto is quite comprehensive. Major ideas that are raised in the literature review are backed up by proper and appropriate citations. For example in defining routines, the authors cite Simon and March in their 1958 work. They, therefore, define routines as complex responses to stimuli. Also in pointing out how school attendance has been ignored by most researchers, the two authors cite Sheldon in a 2007 work (Sheldon 2007,p.267). The theoretical framework appearing in the literature review also makes extensive use of the works of Feldman. The two authors disclose that repair as a response to routine change brings back equilibrium. The other two elements in the group which are expansion and striving have the potential of bringing about more change (Feldman 2002,p.620). This makes the literature review both balanced and comprehensive.

The study takes a very well-organized and methodical format. The starting point is the selection of a school and the securing of permission to utilize the school’s resources that are beneficial to the study. These materials include the attendance registers, the analyzed tardiness reports, student and teacher opinions on attendance and tardiness as well as administrative reactions to issues related to attendance and tardiness. Also, the authors took the time to understand the historical context of the school in terms of administration. They are aware of the principal who left the school and the new one who took over. They also have information on the assistant principal as well as the dean of students.

In addition to the above, the methodology employed has additional details such as the processing of the information as a way of pushing the study to its conclusive end. This is done through the observation of the reactions that the various players display after the activities that they are used to are disrupted (Bolton & Bolton 2009, p.132). Put in another way, the researchers can move to the critical point of the research whereby they observe the reactions of the teachers, the students, and the administration when they are confronted by changes in their routine activities. Observation and other methods of data collection such as register examination and interviews with the teachers, students, and secretaries are done. This is followed by a thorough analysis of this data which is then reported in this article. The effectiveness of the analysis methods employed will be examined and commented on briefly.

Is there any reason why these authors have adopted this methodology in this study? The study to find out the adjustments or behavior of people after they are confronted with routine disruptions has no better way of carrying it out other than what Conley and Enomoto have employed. Using observation on its own would have worked but it would have denied the researchers the opportunity to listen to explanations by the teachers and other involved people as to why they did some things or behaved in some way. Employing interviews only without observation and a chance to examine the records would have also denied the researchers a chance to see the behavior of the participants especially when no one is around. Thus the combination of methods as used by Conley and Enomoto has several advantages that this critique can point out.

The first advantage is the ability of the combination to access various facets of information that is vital to the study that no single method would have assisted collect. Secondly, using the combination creates a powerful blend with each method availing its strong point thus giving credibility to the collected information. For example, examining the records of attendance as marked by teachers for students is a source of fine details for the researchers. This is not accessible in interviews since the secretaries, the teachers of the administrators cannot be in a position to give all the details including percentages of tardiness for students (Conley & Enomoto 2009, pp.378-382). Also, the facial changes that the researchers can witness while having a face-to-face interaction with the study participants are vital in giving a firsthand experience of how the participants feel about a situation. For instance, a face to face interview with a teacher who has been asked to start using a computer to mark the absenteeism of students will give the researcher a chance to see what the teacher thinks about the change from the optical bubble to the computerized model (Gilley 2005,p.76-77). This is not possible in a reported format whereby the people conducting the study can access the descriptive side of the occurrences. What does this tell us about the outcome of the Conley and Enomoto study?

Having utilized a wide range of methods in data collection means that the researchers did not miss much in the research; therefore giving the research factual credibility. The point here is that it is possible that they accessed most of the data that was supposed to be used in coming up with conclusions and therefore these conclusions are reliable.

Far from the above, it is important to look at the design that was employed by Conley and Enomoto in their study. Descriptive or survey research design elements are visible in this study. How do we identify these descriptive and survey features? In research, descriptive and survey designs are exhibited thorough the observations and questions posed by the research to the participants or targets of the study. The answers that are given to the target population, as well as the observed phenomena, are then described to a third party by the researcher in the form of a study report. As noted elsewhere in this critique, Conley and Enomoto carried out thorough observation as well as interviews with the population that participated in the study. The answers that the teachers gave as well as the reactions that the researchers observed on their own are presented descriptively to us in the article.

In addition to descriptive and survey design, the people undertaking the study employed case and field research design. In this case, all that is required is the careful identification of an area of study or a case that is supposed to be studied and then it is dealt with completely and the findings reported as exclusively emanating from the case. The application of the outcome to a wider population is dependent on whether the same characteristics can be observed among members of society (Specter 2009, p.50-53). For example in the study under consideration, the case is the school and the researchers had to go out t the field or school to employ observation as well as other means to learn how the targeted elements are affected. In this case, the targeted element is the change in routine and how people react to it. Since schools in a given society that has relative homogeneity in operations are closely related, the possibility of applying what Conley and Enomoto come up with to other schools within the region is high. It is true to say that the findings regarding the way people change routines as explained by these two researchers can apply not only to several schools in the California area but also to most organizations around the united states.

What is the effectiveness of these two research designs? The descriptive and survey design as well as the case and field design have given the study a concise and coherent form in both the outcome and the way it is reported. The blend or combination has also made it easy to understand the study (Creswell 1994, pp.11-15). It is therefore not difficult to explain the outcome of the study to someone who has not accessed the written form of it since it is highly clear. What about making use of one research design in carrying out his research? It is not appropriate to deny that one design may not have worked in carrying out this research. The problem is that making use of one design would not have allowed for the comprehensive nature that is evident in the presentation of both the methods used, the results realized, and the findings that emanated from the study. Therefore the blend adds the element of refinement and comprehensiveness to the research or study. What was the number of people who took part in the study?

Remarkably, the researchers did not bother to report the specific numbers of the various groups of people who took part in the study. All that we are told is that the research took place in a school and the participants included the students, the teachers, the other members of the administration such as the principal, the assistant principal, and the dean of students as well as the secretaries who assisted in the consolidation of some of the records. The role of the students is that they are the ones whose absenteeism and tardiness were recorded by the teachers as well and the administrators. The students produce the central actions that are the focus of the study. This is because the tardiness and the absenteeism are the ones whose recording is changed from teachers to administrators as a way of trying to see the reactions to changes in routines. The number of teachers who took part in the study is most likely equal to the number of teachers in the school as we are not told that anyone in the teaching pool was left out of the study.

Is there a problem with carrying out a study without the utilization of figures?

It is not a must that numbers be given in studies. The nature of the study determines the format it will take. This can be considered a highly qualitative study that is aimed at looking for facts on issues that do not need percentages. It would have been different if the problem statement would have taken a format such as The determination of the percentage of people who are willing to give up routines and integrate change into their operations in a school. In such a scenario, utilization of figures would have been inevitable since a quantitative aspect is prominently spelled out in the statement of the purpose for the research.

It is important to state that the avoidance of unnecessary calculations in this study gives it not only a unique simplicity but also brevity and directness that play a role in its clarity. The digesting of numerous calculations that convey various ideas in reports based on studies takes time and in most cases confuses the laypersons who are not well trained on the various variables and coefficients that are part of the quantitative reports arising from studies. In contrast, studies that are presented in a simple descriptive manner are easy to understand. Special knowledge is not necessary and the only way in which the person doing the research can complicate it is by employing the use of jargon. This is something Conley and Enomoto have conveniently avoided in their work. This should not be misconstrued to mean that figures complicate study reports. Indeed the figures can sometimes be the gateway to the comprehension of such reports. Most studies that have several variables calculated have a legend that explains what coefficient stands for what variable and what figures are related to what element. In capping this issue of the number of participants in this critique, the absence of numbers of various groups of the participant does not in any way complicate or affect our ability to understand the various elements of the study. How can we characterize the people who participated in this study?

The characteristics of the participants are simple. Some primary participants are crucial to the study. These are the students who provide the target behavior that is examined or varied to see the behavior of the other players to change in routine. Through changing the treatment given to the students’ absenteeism and tardiness, the behavior of the teachers and the administration is keenly observed and used as the source of the results and the findings as well as the conclusions that are made at the end of the study. Therefore calling students primary participants in this study is not a mistake.

Other participants are the teachers, the administration, and the school secretary. These are helping participants in the experiment whose role is equally crucial (Kotter 1996, p.76). There is room for debate on the classification of teachers as helping participants and students as primary participants in the study. This is because the reaction of the teachers and the administration to the changes in routine is what is observed and analyzed. Therefore someone can easily call these two groups primary participants in the study.

The cooperative nature of the teachers, as well as the administrators, is not in question. This can be inferred from the fact that the authors of the article of presenters of the report were able to access the student records and examine them accordingly. They also managed to interview the teachers and the administrators. These interviews formed the basis of the results realized, the findings reported and the conclusions are drawn. Other than these characteristics, there is no other feature that is unique to each of these participants that is worth mentioning in this critique. Are there any special research treatments that were given to the participants?

The participants in this study were not given any special treatment. It is not uncommon to come across the control cases that are used in studies and other experiments such as the taking of a certain number of troubled students to a special school and avoiding taking other troubled students to a special school and then examining the behavior change in both children (Bolman & Teal 1990,p.11). Usually, some normal children are given the expected treatment who act as the control in the study (Fullan 2007,p.61). This is common in scientifically tilted researches and studies. This is however not applied in this study. All that Conley and Enomoto do is to identify a school, find out how they handle students who miss classes or report late to class and then examine how the teachers behave when told to handle the tardiness and absenteeism differently (Payne 2008, p.49).

It is this behavior shift after the change in routine that is of interest to the researchers. Thus they report how the teachers reach as well the reactions of the administration upon the change in routine. The absence of any special treatment in this study does not affect it in any way in that the nature of the study does not call for any kind of special treatment. It is therefore justifiable to any that this lack of special treatment does not affect the outcome of the research in any way whatsoever.

Is there any special treatment whose administration in the study would have altered the result for the better in any way? The answer to this question is no. The nature of the study calls for a natural organization setting and selecting a school for the study meant that they had to try and let the school run as naturally as possible to ensure that the best results are obtained.

The Timeline of the Study

The overall timeline that the study takes is more than four years. The exact number mentioned in the study is five years. In the selection of study or research timelines, several questions are asked. These questions include: What is the maximum time that will be required for this study? What is the minimum time that will be required for the study? What will be the implications of taking maximum time? What will be the implications of taking the minimum time in carrying out the study? Who are the external determinants of the study time? Who are the internal determinants of the study time? Is there anything like too much time in a study? How much ground will the study cover? How many participants will be involved in the study?

Under the consideration of time, there are several issues to consider when deciding the length of time that a study will take. This section will point out these considerations and then examine the study at hand to see whether the time that was picked was adequate or too long. First, the methods to be used for data collection play a role in the period. If one is sending out questionnaires to respondents and waiting for replies to begin data analysis, the period may be longer than when someone is carrying out face-to-face interviews as a means of data collection during the study. This is because some people may take a long time to mail the questionnaires back for various reasons and others may decide to discard them altogether meaning that new ones will have to be sent to the same respondents or new ones.

The other element that determines the length of time that a study takes is the amount of money that is available. It is possible to study a subject of interest over a very long period if the resources are unlimited. But unfortunately, this is never the case since the resources are always limited. Therefore people end up cutting down the time that they spend in researching to fit the amount of money that is available (Cohen 2005,p.89-91).

Besides resources, the number of people participating in the study can also determine the time. If the researchers have decided that they will have to interview a total of two thousand people before the results can be tabulated, the time required will be significantly different from another study that will interview ten people. In this study, Conley and Enomoto are focusing on a school where they are observing the teaching fraternity of the school, the administration as well as the students. They are also looking at records that have to cover a substantially long period if the routine change effects on the teachers and the administration are to be observed and validated.

In light of the above criteria, the timeline of five years for the study on the changes to routines by teachers and the administration of the school seems sufficient. This is because the space required for the huge administrative changes such as the leaving of one administrator such as a principal and the arrival of another is not something that runs through one day. Also, the settling down of a new administrator and the subsequent introduction of a new way of administration does not happen within one day or one week. Management experts argue that the informed manager who arrives in a new organization takes time to study how issues are dealt with in the system (Ivancevich & Konopaske2010, p.98). He masters the old way of doing things identifies the mistakes that he will change and then tried to seduce the members of the organization into accepting new ways of doing things. This is why the study by Conley and Enomoto inevitably requires a long period and five years seems reasonable. This is confirmed by the fact that they were able to finish the study within the period and present their findings without complaining of time limits in the report.

A Critique of the Key Areas of the Research and How They Fit In

Conley and Enomoto utilized the organizational theory in studying how people can change routines. Other elements that were analyzed in the study as shown by the reported facts of the research include the reactions of the teachers when the administration gave them the additional duty of monitoring the tardiness of the students. The shift from the optical system of absenteeism recording to the computerized system also made the teachers complain. This is a display of rigidity to change that is common in most organizations. The optical scan that was replaced in the year 2004 was preferred by the teacher due to the ease with which they would use it. The transfer of the burden of compiling the comprehensive recording to the administration from the teachers made the teachers happy. From the 3-6-9 mode, a localized 10-20-30 mode was adopted whereby tardiness was accumulated from all the classes and recorded for each student as it occurred. The argument was that instead of one teacher requesting to meet the parent of a student over tardiness in the teacher’s class, the parent would be summoned and given the details of the student’s tardiness for all the classes.

What does the excitement of the teacher show as it occurs when the duties are transferred to the administration whereby the secretary is heavily involved in the data assembly? The main idea here is that when routines are not favoring some groups, they welcome any shift that makes their side of things lighter, better, or easier. Meanwhile, those who are added to difficult duties find it difficult to accept change. This means that they show high reluctance to abandon routines that made their work easier.

Other main items discussed that are worth looking at are the triggers of change to routines. These are given as rules, roles, resources, history, and stimulus. Resources can trigger a change to routines through availing the opportunity to explore new things if the resources are in plenty or compelling the management to take up new ways of doing things that are cost-effective if the resources at the organization’s disposal have contracted. Under history, in some cases, some organizations have the unique tradition of carrying out certain changes at certain times. This becomes a trend or a tradition and therefore these changes disturb the normal routine within the organization. Stimulus refers to a condition that that sets the groundwork for adjustments to certain levels of operation. For example, the calling of one parent by so many teachers due to the tardiness of the son or daughter in various classes was a trigger for the consolidation of the tardiness of students to concrete numbers from all classes. The logic is that only one call is made to the parent and the tardiness from all the classes is dealt with at once. This also applies to attendance record issues.

Other motivations for the routine shift are given as striving, repair, and expansion. A striving force as a trigger of change can be explained through the lens of acquiring prestige or a higher class. In the study under examination, teachers who had more information on the tardiness of their students and wanted to correct behavior would call the parents. The striving here is to make better students and achieve a personal level as good teachers. Repair is mainly corrective while expansion is the swelling of opportunities that calls for new ways of dealing with issues in an organization.

A Critique of the Results and How They Are Presented In the Study

After carrying out the study of the school operations for five years, Conley and Enomoto realized that the teachers who had been allowed to record the tardiness under the 3-6-9 system were not happy. They were handling too much and they had the responsibility of calling parents to deal with the tardiness of the students. The administrators were happy that the teachers had the responsibility of dealing with tardiness and this took trouble from the hands of the administrators.

After a while, the system had to change and the 10-20-30 system came in whereby as the number of mistakes in terms of tardiness increased through the figures of ten, twenty, and thirty, privileges were progressively taken away just like in the 3-6-9 system. The major difference that arose with the introduction of this system is that the implementation of the system was transferred to the hands of the administration instead of being administered by teachers. The administration sought the help of the secretary who assisted in the consolidation of the tardiness recordings so that parents would be called only once for all misdemeanors emanating from all classes instead of each teacher calling the parent of a certain child. What transpired from this is that the administration got overwhelmed by the new responsibilities

On the issue of absenteeism, the teachers were dissatisfied with the shift of recording from the optic system to the computer system where issues such as system breakdown and negligence by some teachers led to confusion. The teachers who were not satisfied decided to encourage new teachers who joined the school to avoid the system. This is even though this computer enhanced attendance recording was a district supported initiative whose advantages included easy and safe storage as well as easy processing of the data.

The Major Findings: What Is Their Nature?

The findings of this study as presented in the article are well documented and presented. The shaking of systems that changes routines leads to discomfort for those whose work gets affected by either getting more or harder. These individuals try to stand in the way of any changes to the system. But some mechanisms are employed to make the change to routines easy to accommodate. On the other hand, some get things easier when routines are changed. These people are always willing to support adjustments to routines. In the study, the above areas are reflected as shown below:

The Attendance Recording For Teachers

This was changed from optic bubble supported to computer-supported. The teachers who had the attendance recording responsibility opposed the change. They cited such issues as frequent system breakdown as being the reasons for their displeasure with the change. The reality is that the optic bubble system for attendance recording was much easier than the computer-based system. However, the district was in support of the system for various reasons such as the ease with which information was stored and the ability to quickly process the data on attendance. The questions that arise in this area that the study does not answer include whether preparation of the teachers and refinement of the computer-enhanced system would have made any difference in reducing the opposition.

Tardy Cases Recording

In this case, the study found out that the administration was quite satisfied when the teachers had full responsibility under the 3-6-9 tardy recording system. This is because all the work was in the hands of the teachers and not the administration. But a shift from 3-6-9 to 10-20-30 made the administration get overwhelmed as it became the administration’s duty to call parents after the information had been processed through consolidation by the secretary. The study does not point out that when the change occurs and it favors one group over the other, the favored group is always in support of the routine change while the group that gets harder work opposes the change in routines. It may be obvious but pointing it out in the study would have been helpful.

Repair, Expansion, and Striving and their effect on changes to Routines as Shown by the Study

The analysis given based on these three change-related phenomena is understandable. Under repair, the understanding is that when change occurs on a certain routine, the members of the organization who experience pressure also apply some pressure in another direction in a bid to change the altered situation. This is especially true when the force felt is negative. In the study, the 3-6-9 system of recording attendance was an expansion of the role played by teachers in dealing with the attendance issues of students. It however turned out to be overwhelming for leading to the efforts to come up with a new system. They therefore pushed and a repair came in the form of a new system called 10-20-30 which was taken to the hands of the administration. Another repair is evident when the secretary is asked to assist in the consolidation of the tardy records. The decision to ask her to perform this role is because the work has become too much for the administration.

Besides the above, the introduction of computers in the recording of attendance is a repair to the optic bubble tradition that is inferior compared to the computer system. The district authorities had recommended the computer system for several reasons. The most important of these was the ease with which information would be processed and retrieved and the easy storage of information. The striving that occurred was the optimist by the administration that eventually all would go well and the computer system would work. In these scenarios, repair seems to be an effort to restore equilibrium through going back to the old ways while expansion and striving appear to be geared towards accommodating the change.

Major Conclusions Made By the Research

The major conclusion made by the research as presented by Conley and Enomoto is that changes in routine can take place with the affected people adjusting in various ways. This leaves me wondering whether this is the only major conclusion that is evident in the study. What about the fact that the time within which the routine has been running can determine the level of opposition to change? What about the nearly obvious but important fact that those who are favored by changes in routine duties will always support the changes while those who get disadvantaged in the process of making changes to routines will always oppose the changes to routines? Other possible major conclusions that are left out by the authors include the issue that preparation of the members of the organization before changes are made will make the changes to routines more acceptable and that the nature of the activity that is involved in the routine that has been earmarked for change can determine the level of acceptance of the change.

The study does not give a picture of the limitations that the researchers may have experienced. It is not possible to carry out research either quantitative or qualitative that is smooth without any limitation. For example, the elements of striving, expansion, and repair may not fully explain the reason for the accommodation of changes to routines by all people.

Recommendations for Future Research Based On This Critique

It is necessary to focus on a wider spectrum to include other issues in the research such as the impact of the changes to routines on individuals and groups in organizations and how this influences their opposition or support for changes.


From the critique, it is clear that the two authors of the article, Conley and Enomoto did a wonderful job. The format elements dealt with in the research met most scholarly standards but fell short in covering major conclusions and spelling out study limitations that may have stood in the way of coming up with even more accomplished results.


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