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Closeness and Distance: Configurational practices for digital ambidexterity in the public sector

Journal article
Authors Johan Magnusson
Jwan Khisro
Max Björses
Aleksander Ivarsson
Published in Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy
ISSN 1750-6166
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Keywords ambidexterity, configuration, public sector, digital ambidexterity, digitalization
Subject categories Informatics and systems science, Public Administration Studies


This study aims to increase the current understanding of how public sector organizations dynamically balance exploration and exploitation of digital initiatives, i.e. the enactment of digital ambidexterity. The study utilizes Zimmermann, Raisch & Cardinal’s perspective of configurational practices for addressing the enactment of digital ambidexterity. The method consists of a qualitative, interpretative case study of a large municipality in Sweden, utilizing both interviews and secondary data. Through the perspective of configurational practices, the study identifies and describes a set of sub-practices that constitute the enactment of digital ambidexterity. This is then used for theorizing how configurational practices involve the balancing of closeness and distance. The study is limited by being a single, non-longitudinal case of a Swedish municipality which has implications for generalizability and transferability. At the same time, it opens up for new perspectives to the future study of the enactment of ambidexterity in the public sector. Organizations striving for digital ambidexterity are recommended to use the configurational approach to assess and design their governance in order to build ambidextrous capabilities through a combination of closeness and distance. This is the first study that addresses how ambidexterity is enacted within the public sector following the configurational approach. As such, it opens up for new perspectives on organizational ambidexterity.

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