Simon on routinization

A great deal of organization theory literature distinguishes between routine and nonroutine activity.  Routine activity is programmed, while nonroutine activity is ad hoc.  But is any activity really unprogrammed?  As usual, Simon has the answer:

In what sense, then, can we say that the response of a system to a situation is nonprogramed? Surely something determines the response.  That something, that collection of rules of a procedure, is by definition a program.  By nonprogramed I mean a response where the system has no specific procedures to deal with a situation like the one at hand, but must fall back on whatever general capacity it has for intelligent, adaptive, problem-oriented action. (Herbert A. Simon, The New Science of Management Decision, 1977 p. 47)

In a strict sense, all organizational behavior is programmed, hence routinized.  Seemingly nonroutine activity (ad hoc problem solving, improvising) simply involves less specialized routines.  As organizations learn, they develop more specialized routines.

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