Drivers of managerial ambidextrous behaviour

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16285
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201986893
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Research in ambidexterity literature has presented evidence suggesting that the more dynamic, volatile, and unpredictable the environment, the more managerial ambidexterity is required for success. Whereas managerial ambidexterity is increasingly gaining ground in the literature, drivers and underpinnings of managerial ambidextrous behaviour (manager’s behavioural orientation toward combining exploration and exploitation) remain largely unexplored. This study aims to fill this gap in the literature by investigating: 1) how the tension between exploration and exploitation is reconciled by managers and the role their skills play in reconciling this tension, 2) the organisational contextual factors that influence managers’ ability to manage this tension, and lastly 3) the variation in managers’ ambidexterity and its relation to their level in the corporate hierarchy. This study brings together two seemingly different and opposing streams of research. The first stream suggests that individuals do not operate in a vacuum and that organisational context plays a crucial role in enabling and constraining their ambidextrous behaviour (i.e., Gibson and Birkinshaw, 2004; Kao and Chen, 2016; Zhang et al., 2018), and the second stream suggests that individuals’ skills and characteristics shape their capacity to excel at reconciling the tension between exploration and exploitation (i.e., Good and Michel, 2013; Mom et al., 2009; Barile et al., 2015; Volery et al., 2015). This study adopts an interpretive approach that is based on selecting participants from a wide range of industries (non-probability sampling). To analyse data, thematic analysis was conducted. In managing data, both NVivo and MS-word were adopted. Following a micro-level approach, this study makes important contributions to the literature of ambidexterity by providing fresh and empirically-driven insights into drivers of managerial ambidextrous behaviour. First, the findings of the study reveal that both organisational context and personal skills and characteristics play a crucial role in shaping managers’ capacity to demonstrate ambidextrous behaviour. Second, the findings indicate that tolerance for early failure is the determinant attribute of organisational context that releases managers’ potential of exploratory behaviour. Thus, this study draws practitioners’ and researchers’ attention to one of the main determinants of managerial ambidextrous behaviour, yet the least researched in managerial ambidexterity literature; that is, tolerance for early failure. Third, the findings demonstrate that managers’ ambidexterity is associated with their position of authority and that the adverse impact of lack of tolerance for early failure on managers’ capacity to demonstrate ambidextrous behaviour diminishes as their position of authority increases. Thus, it can be argued that this study is the first study to investigate the role decision-making authority plays in mitigating the adverse impact of lack of tolerance for early failure on managerial ambidexterity. Lastly, the study proposes key characteristics and skills of ambidextrous managers that are deemed essential for overcoming the cognitive challenge of addressing the conflicting demands of exploration and exploitation.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Mackay, David (Author of Strategy)
  • Smith, Marisa
Resource Type