Punctuated Equilibrium Theory in IS Research

Chapter
Part of the Integrated Series in Information Systems book series (ISIS, volume 28)

Abstract

Punctuated Equilibrium is a theory originating in paleobiology which has been adopted by management researchers to explain organizational change. In this theory, episodes of radical change are preceded and followed by longer periods of relative stability. Comprised of equilibrium periods, revolutionary periods, and punctuations, Punctuated Equilibrium can be contrasted with other perspectives on organizational change including persistent gradualism, tectonic shift, and turbulent adaptation. The use of the theory in IS research is identified in areas as diverse as virtual teams, IS implementation, organizational change, and strategic alignment. Finally, suggestions regarding how researchers may operationalize Punctuated Equilibrium are made focusing on key components of the definition of punctuations.

Keywords

Punctuated equilibrium Organizational change IS implementation Virtual teams Strategic alignment 

Abbreviations

IS

Information systems

NSO

National Sports Organization

PE

Punctuated equilibrium

References

  1. Amis, J., Slack, T., & Hinings, C. R. (2004). The pace, sequence, and linearity of radical change. Academy of Management Journal, 47(1), 15–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, P., & Tushman, M. L. (1990). Technological discontinuities and dominant designs: a cyclical model of technological change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(4), 604–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnott, D. (2004). Decision support systems evolution: framework, case study and research agenda. European Journal of Information Systems, 13(4), 247–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benbya, H., & McKelvey, B. (2006). Using coevolutionary and complexity theories to improve IS alignment: A multi-level approach. Journal of Information Technology, 21(4), 284–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhattacherjee, A., & Hikmet, N. (2007). Physicians’ resistance toward healthcare information technology: A theoretical model and empirical test. European Journal of Information Systems, 16(6), 725–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boddy, D., & Paton, R. (2005). Maintaining alignment over the long-term: Lessons from the evolution of an electronic point-of-sale system. Journal of Information Technology, 20(2), 141–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, S. L., & Eisenhardt, K. M. (1997). The art of continuous change: Linking complexity theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(1), 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carte, T., & Chidambaram, L. (2004). A capabilities-based theory of technology deployment in diverse teams: Leapfrogging the pitfalls of diversity and leveraging its potential with collaborative technology. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 5(11–12), 448–471.Google Scholar
  9. Chan, Y. E., & Reich, B. H. (2007). IT alignment: What have we learned? Journal of Information Technology, 22(4), 297–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cross, J., Earl, M. J., & Sampler, J. L. (1997). Transformation of the IT function at British petroleum. MIS Quarterly, 21(4), 401–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Aveni, R. A. (1994). Hypercompetition. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  12. DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Drazin, R., & Sandelands, L. E. (1992). Autogenesis: A perspective on the process of organizing. Organization Science, 3(2), 230–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Martin, J. A. (2000). Dynamic capabilities: What are they? Strategic Management Journal, 21(10–11), 1105–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Tabrizi, B. N. (1995). Accelerating adaptive processes: Product innovation in the global computer industry. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(1), 84–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eldridge, N., & Gould, S. (1972). Punctuated equilibria: An alternative to phyletic gradualism. In T. J. Schopf (Ed.), Models in paleobiology (pp. 82–115). San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper & Co.Google Scholar
  17. Fitzgerald, G., & Russo, N. L. (2005). The turnaround of the London Ambulance Service Computer-Aided Despatch system (LASCAD). European Journal of Information Systems, 14(3), 244–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gersick, C. J. G. (1988). Time and transition in work teams: Toward a new model of group ­development. Academy of Management Journal, 31(1), 9–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gersick, C. J. G. (1989). Marking time: Predictable transitions in task groups. Academy of Management Journal, 32(2), 274–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gersick, C. J. G. (1991). Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 10–36.Google Scholar
  21. Greenwood, R., & Hinings, C. R. (1996). Understanding radical organizational change: Bringing together the old and the new institutionalism. Academy of Management Review, 21(4), 1022–1045.Google Scholar
  22. Gregor, S. (2006). The nature of theory in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 30(3), 611–642.Google Scholar
  23. Greiner, L. A. (1972). Evolution and revolution as organizations grow. Harvard Business Review, 50(4), 37–46.Google Scholar
  24. Haveman, H. A., Russo, M. V., & Meyer, A. D. (2001). Organizational environments in flux: The impact of regulatory punctuations on organizational domains, CEO succession, and performance. Organization Science, 12(3), 253–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoffman, A. J. (1999). Institutional evolution and change: Environmentalism and the U.S. chemical industry. Academy of Management Journal, 42(4), 351–371.Google Scholar
  26. Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Ives, B. (1994). The global network organization of the future: Information management opportunities and challenges. Journal of Management Information Systems, 10(4), 25–57.Google Scholar
  27. Jarvenpaa, S., Shaw, T., & Staples, S. (2004). Toward contextualized theories of trust: The role of trust in global virtual teams. Information Systems Research, 15(3), 250–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jasperson, J., Carter, P. E., & Zmud, R. W. (2005). A comprehensive conceptualization of ­post-adoptive behaviors associated with information technology enabled work systems. MIS Quarterly, 29(3), 525–557.Google Scholar
  29. Keil, M., Tan, B. C. Y., Wei, K.-K., Saarinen, T., Tuunainen, V., & Wassenaar, A. (2000). A cross-cultural study on escalation of commitment behavior in software projects. MIS Quarterly, 24(2), 299–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krovi, R. (1993). Identifying the causes of resistance to IS implementation. Information Management, 25(6), 327–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolution (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lassila, K., & Brancheau, J. (1999). Adoption and utilization of commercial software packages: Exploring utilization equilibria, transitions, triggers, and tracks. Journal of Management Information Systems, 16(2), 63–90.Google Scholar
  33. Levinson, D. J. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  34. Lewin, K. (1951). Defining the field at a given time. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Field theory in social science: Selected theoretical papers. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  35. Loch, C. H., & Huberman, B. A. (1999). A punctuated-equilibrium model of technology diffusion. Management Science, 45(2), 160–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Luchins, A. S. (1940). Mechanization in problem solving: The effect of Einstellung. Psychological Monographs, 54(6), 1–95.Google Scholar
  37. Lyytinen, K., & Newman, M. (2008). Explaining information systems change: A punctuated model socio-technical change model. European Journal of Information Systems, 17(6), 589–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lyytinen, K., & Rose, G. M. (2003). The disruptive nature of information technology innovations: The case of internet computing in systems development organizations. MIS Quarterly, 27(4), 557–595.Google Scholar
  39. Mehta, M., & Hirschheim, R. (2007). Strategic alignment in mergers and acquisitions: Theorizing IS integrated decision-making. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 8(3), 143–174.Google Scholar
  40. Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutional organizations: Formal structure as myth and ­ceremony. The American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Meyer, A. D., Brooks, G. R., & Goes, J. B. (1990). Environmental jolts and industry revolutions: Organizational responses to discontinuous change. Strategic Management Journal, 11(Special Issue), 93–110.Google Scholar
  42. Nadler, D. A., & Tushman, M. L. (1989). Organizational frame bending: Principles for managing reorientation. Academy of Management Executive, 3(3), 194–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Newman, M., & Zhao, Y. (2008). The process of enterprise resource planning implementation and business process re-engineering: Tales from two Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises. Information Systems Journal, 18(4), 405–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pavlou, P. A., Liang, H., & Xue, Y. (2007). Understanding and mitigating uncertainty in online exchange relationships: A principal-agent perspective. MIS Quarterly, 31(1), 105–136.Google Scholar
  45. Plowman, D. A., Baker, L. T., Beck, T. E., Kulkarni, M., Solansky, S. T., & Travis, D. V. (2007). Radical change accidentally: The emergence and amplification of small change. Academy of Management Journal, 50(3), 515–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Porra, J. (1999). Colonial systems. Information Systems Research, 10(1), 38–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Porra, J., Hirschheim, R., & Parks, M. (2005). The history of Texaco’s corporate information technology function: A general systems theoretical interpretation. MIS Quarterly, 29(4), 721–746.Google Scholar
  48. Prigogine, I., & Stengers, I. (1984). Order out of chaos: Man’s new dialogue with nature. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  49. Rindova, V., & Kotha, S. (2001). Continuous morphing: Competing through dynamic capabilities, form and function. Academy of Management Journal, 44(6), 1263–1280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Romanelli, E., & Tushman, M. L. (1994). Organizational transformation as punctuated equilibrium: An empirical test. Academy of Management Journal, 37(5), 1141–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rumelt, R. P., Schendel, D. E., & Teece, D. J. (1994). Fundamental issues in strategy. In R. P. Rumelt, D. E. Schendel, & D. J. Teece (Eds.), Fundamental issues in strategy: A research agenda (pp. 9–47). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sabherwal, R., Hirschheim, R., & Goles, T. (2001). The dynamics of alignment: Insights from a punctuated equilibrium model. Organizational Science, 12(2), 179–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sarker, S., & Sahay, S. (2003). Understanding virtual team development: An interpretive study. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 4(1), 1–38.Google Scholar
  54. Sastry, M. A. (1997). Problems and paradoxes in a model of punctuated organisational change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(4), 237–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schumpeter, J. (1934). The theory of economic development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Siggelkow, N. (2001). Change in the presence of fit: The rise, the fall, and the renaissance of Liz Claiborne. Academy of Management Journal, 44(4), 838–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Siggelkow, N. (2002). Evolution toward fit. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(1), 125–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Silva, L., & Hirschheim, R. (2007). Fighting against windmills: Strategic information systems and organizational deep structures. MIS Quarterly, 31(2), 327–354.Google Scholar
  59. Sterelny, K. (2001). Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the fittest. Cambridge: Icon Books.Google Scholar
  60. Stevens, T. (2004). 3M reinvents its innovation process. Research Technology Management, 47(2), 3–5.Google Scholar
  61. Stoddard, D. B., & Jarvenpaa, S. L. (1995). Business process redesign: Tactics for managing ­radical change. Journal of Management Information Systems, 12(1), 81–99.Google Scholar
  62. Street, C.T. (2006). Evolution in IS alignment and IS alignment capabilities over time: A test of punctuated equilibrium theory. Unpublished doctor of philosophy thesis, Queen’s University.Google Scholar
  63. Street, C. T., & Gallupe, R. B. (2009). A proposal for operationalizing the pace and scope of organizational change in management studies. Organizational Research Methods, 12(4), 720–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Street, C. T., & Meister, D. B. (2004). Small business growth and internal transparency: The role of information systems. MIS Quarterly, 28(3), 473–506.Google Scholar
  65. Tushman, M. L., & Anderson, A. (1986). Technological discontinuities and organizational environments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31(3), 439–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tushman, M. L., & Romanelli, E. (1985). Organizational evolution: A metamorphosis model of convergence and reorientation. In L. L. Cummings & B. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 7, pp. 171–222). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  67. Van de Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510–540.Google Scholar
  68. Van de Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. (2005). Alternative approaches for studying organizational change. Organizational Studies, 26(9), 1377–1404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J. H., & Fisch, R. (1974). Change: Principles of problem formulation and problem resolution. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  70. Weick, K., & Quinn, R. (1999). Organizational change and development. American Review of Psychology, 50(1), 361–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business AdministrationRoyal Military College of CanadaKingstonCanada

Personalised recommendations