Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 June 2010
It is argued that routines can be fruitfully conceived of as multilevel mechanisms. The merits of viewing routines as multilevel mechanisms are that it helps in putting together a coherent picture of what routines are, what routines do, and how they do it. In particular, it helps in getting a clearer picture of how skills and routines are ontologically (rather than metaphorically) related to each other. It allows us to see that while routines are generative mechanisms producing recurrent patterns of firm behavior, as multilevel mechanisms they themselves are at the same time recurrent patterns of interaction within firms. Because of its ‘behavioral’ spirit, viewing routines as multilevel mechanisms (rather than as, for example, unobservable dispositions of firms to energize patterns of behavior in firms) greatly facilitates further empirical research on crucial, as yet unresolved issues, such as how stable and robust routines are and to what extent firm behavior is routine.