Gerardo Patriotta & Daniel A Gruber
University of Nottingham & Northwestern University

Routinizing the unexpected is a familiar challenge for contemporary organizations, and yet little is known about the processes by which organizational members make sense of idiosyncratic occurrences and transform them into assignments that can be subjected to routine processing. Drawing on an ethnographic study conducted at a local U.S. television station, we elaborate on how those working in the news department plan their stories on a daily basis and adjust their routine performances when new stories break. 

We find that newsmaking routines are shaped by ostensive patterns of anticipation and typification through which newsworkers absorb information in its various forms and respond to unexpected events on a regular basis. In particular, we show how temporal and semantic elements encoded in ostensive patterns influence the ways in which participants make sense of and enact routines. Our findings contribute to an understanding of structure and agency dynamics in routinized work and how these dynamics affect routine functioning in the face of continuous change.


Gerardo Patriotta is Professor of Management and Organization at the Nottingham University Business School, UK. His  primary research interests include institutional theory, organizational sensemaking and organizational knowledge. His work has combined sociological and organizational theory to understand the work practices and behaviors of, amongst others, shopfloor operators, courtrooms judges, business consultants, global bank managers, air force pilots, and news workers. He is the author of Organizational knowledge in the making: how firms create, use, and institutionalize knowledge (Oxford University Press, 2003). He currently serves on the editorial board of Organization Studies and as an associate editor at the Journal of Management Studies. [Email:]

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