Organisational Ambidexterity: Bridging the divide between theory and practice

  • Natasha Rose

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


It is commonly understood in organisational studies literature that an organisation’s ability to simultaneously exploit and explore opportunities enhances its long-term performance - this is known as organisational ambidexterity (March, 1991). Despite its promise of performance current literature lacks clarity about how organisational ambidexterity is achieved in practice. Similarly literature omits how ambidexterity can be viewed as an intentional strategy to help organisations with complex structures respond swiftly and flexibly to change. Organisational ambidexterity is primarily seen as a strategic level construct that research and evidence has failed to link to individual actors, their motivations or the organisation’s environment. This thesis takes a strategy as practice perspective of organisational ambidexterity and investigates this phenomenon in the telecoms and technology sectors. The empirical studies were conducted across six organisations by means of 47 in depth, semi-structured interviews.This thesis consists of a portfolio of three research papers, each taking a multilevel perspective of organisational ambidexterity. The first paper segments organisational ambidexterity into its microfoundations because many firm level constructs are embedded in individual actions and interactions. Thus a need exists to identify those microfoundations that underpin organisational ambidexterity. The second paper considers the different forms of organising available to organisations in pursuit of organisational ambidexterity. It identifies the organising behaviours required to manage paradoxes. The third paper addresses the interlinkages between microfoundations, namely praxis, practices and practitioners (Whittington, 2006). This provides causal mechanisms explaining how and why individuals enable organisational ambidexterity. The overarching contribution of this thesis portfolio is that it theoretically extends existing organisational ambidexterity literature with a strategy as practice lens to understand the microfoundations of ambidexterity. Practically it identifies explanations regarding how organisational ambidexterity is enabled, the implications of those practices and the consequences of those enabling practices. This research aims to contribute theoretical and practical knowledge that produces purposefulness in academic / practitioner collaborative research. In so doing it will increase levels of relevance and impact to bridge the divide between theory and practice.
Date of Award21 Nov 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJuani Swart (Supervisor) & Michael Mayer (Supervisor)

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