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Title: Per aspera ad astra : an organization's pursuit of organizational ambidexterity, and its underlying mechanisms
Author: Agyei, Doreen A. K.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7223 9440
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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The title, per aspera ad astra, the ‘struggle to the stars’, speaks to this thesis in two ways. Firstly, the theoretical focus of this research project rests upon understanding the joint pursuit of exploitation (efficiency) and exploration (innovation), a concept otherwise known as organizational ambidexterity. To date, studies have demonstrated that organizations with the ability to achieve ambidexterity are apt to become leading star performers in their industries. Yet the pursuit of ambidexterity is difficult and fraught with tension; for exploration and exploitation are considered incompatible and demand fundamentally different skill requirements and capabilities. The research herein contributes knowledge to the field of strategy and change management by addressing an important but underdeveloped area of inquiry in examining how, in practice, an organization transitions towards an ambidextrous strategy and manages the exploration-exploitation duality (Birkinshaw, Crilly, Bouquet and Lee, 2016). Herein, the study focuses on the exploration-exploitation duality and addresses the research questions ‘how does an established organization transition in strategic pursuit of organizational ambidexterity, and what underlying mechanisms support or impeded its transition?’ Secondarily, to address this question an empirical qualitative case study analysis was conducted of an organization undergoing strategic change towards achieving ambidexterity, namely the NASA Johnson Space Center who strive to advance science and technology through the difficult endeavor of human space exploration. Utilizing a multimethod approach, rich qualitative data was gathered and through inductive reasoning and a grounded theory approach, theoretical insights were generated to develop theory. Broadly speaking, the study finds that: (1) an organization’s approach to ambidexterity is not static but evolves progressively with antecedents arranged in a layered pattern over time due to a dynamic relationship between exploration-exploitation. Consequentially, structural and contextual antecedents to ambidexterity are employed in a hybrid manner, and this is enabled by various distinct skills, processes and structures resembling the micro foundations of dynamic capabilities; (2) the formal and informal organization are important organizational features whose interaction creates a practice-based mechanism which, under certain conditions, engenders the informal organization to promote long-term change supporting the effective pursuit of ambidexterity; and (3) an organization’s history, when punctuated with crisis events, can have a paradoxical influence that simultaneously supports and impedes its approach to exploration and exploitation. The study contributes to a richer understanding of organizational ambidexterity and how an organization pursues and implements this strategy in practice. It also contributes to expanding our understanding of the processes, structures and micro-features engaged in the development of ambidexterity at different levels of the organization.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD28 Management. Industrial Management