3/3 – Managerial Adaptation or “here and now!”

3/3 – Managerial Adaptation or “here and now!”


3/3 – Managerial Adaptation or “here and now!”


20 May 2018

Pascal Latouche

20 May 2018

Pascal Latouche

I shared with you the concept of "Translation" and "Institutional Work". Related articles are available both on LinkedIn and on my blog https://www.pascal-latouche.com.

This concept of “Translation” as well as the one of “Institutional Work”, allow us to shed light on the social and institutional interactions. In my previous articles, it was a question of emphasizing the absolute necessity to approach the implementation of new devices in the company, by having an approach both social and structural.

Indeed, one of the main contributions of my thesis work between 2013 and 2017 was the following: to go beyond the approach (academic and managerial) which consists in postulating that there are on the one hand the structures and on the other hand the Women and Men who compose them. I am one of those who think that there are first of all Women and Men and that it is indeed the latter who forge the structures and give them meaning (or not …).

However, it cannot be denied that structures, like systems, will influence the behaviour of women and men. Therefore, an essential reflection emerges: if women and men forge structures, and if these structures influence them in return, it presupposes that these same women and men will adapt these structures to compensate for these influences.

This is the purpose of this short article (a foretaste) which touches on the third and last concept that I mobilized during my work. This is the managerial adaptation that I invite you to discover, certainly in the context of the launch of new innovation systems, but also more broadly.

Managerial adaptation: what is it in short?

The analysis of the adaptation or modification of an innovative system within the company aims to shed light on what happens during and after adoption. This approach has been relatively neglected because it seems that innovation, particularly in devices, was more likely to be apprehended as a monolith in its design, adoption and application. How could it be imagined that innovation could be frozen?

Indeed, during the process of diffusion/adoption of a device, it is now proven that actors will continue to refine and modify it to stimulate and reinforce its adoption. We are talking about adaptation. Moreover, in fields of Science other than Management Sciences, some authors and researchers have proposed the idea that adaptation is synonymous with survival…

Furthermore, it should be noted that any structure, and more generally anything, can be characterized. Adapting therefore means manipulating characteristics. In the case of new devices, the actors manipulate characteristics in order to modify the structure, in short to adapt it to make it better accepted by the target, and to survive…

What is a characteristic?

Many authors have examined the characteristics of innovation (Downs and Mohr, 1976; Rogers, 1983, 1995; Mamman, 2009; Ansari et al., 2010). By “innovation”, I mean innovation in the broad sense, i.e. its various expressions (products or services, processes, managerial…).

With particular reference to these works, the literature agrees to classify the characteristics of an innovation into two categories. Those that refer to intrinsic characteristics and objective qualities, and those that refer to perceived characteristics, i.e. the (subjective) interpretation of the actors. The characteristics proposed in the literature are numerous and deserve to be explored. The authors cited above are valuable references and the most interested among you will most certainly be able to consult their writings.

Here, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to share with you THE reasons why Managerial Adaptation seems to me extremely useful to consider/understand, whenever one claims to want to launch a new device within an organization.

Why is the concept of Managerial Adaptation important?

This concept helps to understand the different types of changes that structures can undergo (and this is the term “undergo”) in order to speed up their adoption. The company, through the actors, makes changes to the structure itself in order to introduce and disseminate it within the organization.

This term « adaptation » is also used indifferently to speak of changes made in an organization to accommodate the device, and to speak of changes made to the device itself to fit the organization. In particular, it makes it possible to encapsulate these notions of « adjustment » and « alignment » between the system and the organisational design, by acting on the characteristics of the system and making it accepted by its various stakeholders.

Understanding an adaptation process and the factors that influence it also has several advantages, in particular identifying the key factors for the success of a new system – or, on the contrary, the reasons for its failure – and being able to advise practitioners on the type of modifications to be made.

Translation, Institutional Work and Managerial Adaptation

My work on managerial adaptation indicates that the person in charge of a new device can manipulate the characteristics of the structure. « Manipulating » these characteristics will allow the manager to finally play with the field of actors to be solicited to feed his environment, the nature of the tasks to be accomplished and the structure useful to carry out his mission.

This adaptation in real time is what I call “situated translation”. Everything happens as if the manipulation of characteristics allowed the device to « translate in situ », i.e. to adapt itself in order to set in motion the mechanisms of institutional work.

In substance and at the end of the three articles devoted to the concepts that can shed light on the adoption of innovative devices: managerial adaptation is the expression of an in-situ translation, via the mechanisms of institutional work. This managerial adaptation therefore plays a fundamental role since it allows the link to be made between the social dimension (Translation) and the institutional dimension (Institutional Work).


It’s sort of a systemic view of what I’m proposing to you in terms of adopting new arrangements in organizations. I encapsulate it in the terms « managerial work ». It is a very concrete systemic concept that includes Translation, Institutional Work and Managerial Adaptation. The elements present in this system (structures + people) interact with each other and with the new structure until a balance is found. This balance can only be found through action. See you in a few weeks!


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