Institutional complexity and organizational change: An open polity perspective

Daniel Waeger, Klaus Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Changing environments often expose organizations to institutional logics that are at odds with other logics that were imprinted into the organizations in the past, giving rise to conflict. We specifically propose that prior institutional environments imprint organizational coalitions and governance systems—the organization’s polity—and that these polity imprints explain variance in organizational change processes in response to new logics. We argue that such polity imprints shape how different organizational groups construe their conflicting interests in relation to new logics, how they mobilize for and against changes emanating from these logics, and how the outcomes of group conflict become stabilized. To develop this argument, we identify four ideal types of organizational polities, based on differences in the centralization of authority and the unity of organizational elites. Each ideal type gives rise to a characteristic pattern of how organizations process the advent of new logics. Our analysis demonstrates the utility of conceptualizing organizations as open polities—political entities that interact with their external environment—and the importance of taking historically imprinted political features of organizations into account in studies of organizational responses to institutional complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-359
Number of pages24
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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