CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

COVID-19 has dramatically affected our way of life. The healthcare industry has been the most affected and hospital services have had to adapt to face the increasing number of cases in emergency rooms, with greater danger of contagion. However, public lockdowns have brought new challenges for individuals and organizations in a variety of sectors. In a short period of time, companies have had to adapt to a reduction in demand and teleworking. This pandemic has abruptly revealed how unforeseeable and unstable the world is today, and how unpredictability and time scarcity are driving forces in today’s organizational set-ups (Baard et al., 2014). More than ever, the ability to adapt and exploit an environment that is unpredictable and rapidly changing can constitute a differentiation factor leading to competitive advantages (Crossan et al., 1996). In order to be effective in dynamic, changing environments, teams must adapt (Burke et al., 2006) and, if time is limited, they need to improvise (Cunha et al., 2016). However, if we are to gain a deeper understanding of how improvisation can result in lasting knowledge that can be incorporated into a team’s routine, it is essential to take into account the lessons learned from the literature on improvisation and adaptation. In the last two decades, both literatures have sought to explain how teams can cope and thrive in such challenging environments (e.g. Lei et al., 2016; Hadida et al., 2015; Kamoche & Cunha, 2001), but only a combination of both perspectives can truly delve into these phenomena and reliably reveal the dynamics of team processes facing changeable contexts under extreme time scarcity…


Unpredictability and time scarcity are determining factors of contemporary organizational life. When subject to these contexts, teams often resort to adaptation and/or improvisation. In these two processes, teams can adopt one of three alternatives: adapt without improvising, that is, teams adapt with time to plan the new action before implementing it; improvise without adapting, which means that they improvise exclusively driven by their will, without any disruption having led them to do so; or adapt by improvising a solution, which implies the temporal merger of design and execution. However, the literature has generally neglected the differences between these three processes. Building on the literature on team adaptation and team improvisation, we propose the team improv-adapt framework, which comprises the processes of team preemptive adaptation, team purposive improvisation, and team improvised adaptation. In addition, we develop a time-informed conceptual model that sheds light on how teams can effectively engage in different processes that require team or task adjustments. In particular, we focus on the different phases that teams go through over time, as they adopt the different processes of the framework. We also analyze the specific team processes that are adopted in each of the phases, as well as the different leadership sources and coordination mechanisms used. By acknowledging the defining nature of time in team processes, and exploring the temporal stream of team improvisation and team adaptation, we expand both literatures, increasing their construct clarity and extending their nomological network.

  • adaptation
  • improvisation
  • team
  • theory
  • time

Cadre impro-adapte d’équipe: déconstruire et recombiner l’adaptation et l’improvisation d’équipe dans une perspective de processus

L’imprévisibilité et le manque de temps sont des facteurs déterminants de la vie organisationnelle contemporaine. Dans de tels contextes, les équipes ont souvent recours à l’adaptation et/ou à l’improvisation. En considérant ces deux processus, les équipes peuvent adopter trois alternatives : s’adapter sans improviser, c’est-à-dire que les équipes s’adaptent avec le temps pour planifier la nouvelle action avant de la mettre en œuvre ; improviser sans s’adapter, ce qui signifie qu’elles improvisent exclusivement guidées par leur volonté, sans qu’aucune perturbation ne les y ait conduites ; et s’adapter en improvisant une solution, ce qui implique la fusion temporelle de la conception et de l’exécution. Cependant, la littérature a généralement négligé les différences entre ces trois processus. En nous appuyant sur la littérature relative à l’adaptation et à l’improvisation en équipe, nous proposons le cadre impro-adapte d’équipe comprenant les processus d’adaptation préemptive en équipe, d’improvisation volontaire en équipe et d’adaptation improvisée en équipe. En outre, nous développons un modèle conceptuel temporel qui aide à comprendre comment les équipes peuvent s’engager efficacement dans différents processus qui nécessitent des ajustements de l’équipe ou des tâches. En particulier, nous nous concentrons sur les différentes phases que les équipes traversent au fil du temps, lorsqu’elles adoptent les différents processus du cadre. Nous analysons également les processus d’équipe spécifiques qui sont adoptés dans chacune des phases, ainsi que les différentes sources de leadership et les mécanismes de coordination utilisés. En reconnaissant la nature déterminante du temps dans les processus d’équipe, et en explorant le flux temporel de l’improvisation et de l’adaptation en équipe, nous élargissons les deux littératures, en augmentant la clarté des concepts et en étendant leur réseau nomologique.

  • adaptation
  • improvisation
  • équipes
  • théorie
  • temps
António Cunha Meneses Abrantes
António CUNHA MENESES ABRANTES is an assistant professor at ICN Business School. His research interests include team dynamics, team improvisation, team adaptation, team cognition, and team learning. He has also worked for 20 years as a manager in domestic and multinational enterprises.
ICN Business School, CEREFIGE, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France and Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL), Lisbon, Portugal
Ana Margarida Passos
Ana Margarida PASSOS is an associate professor in the Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior at Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL). Her research interests include team leadership, team cognition, team affective- motivational processes, and team effectiveness and adaptability with a temporal focus.
Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL), Lisbon, Portugal and Universidade Europeia, Lisbon, Portugal
Miguel Pina e Cunha
Miguel PINA e CUNHA is a professor of organization theory and organizational behavior at Nova SBE, Portugal. His research mostly deals with the surprising (paradox, improvisation, serendipity, zemblanity, vicious circles) and the extreme (positive organizing, genocide). Miguel co-authored (with Arménio Rego and Stewart Clegg) the publication “The virtues of leadership: Contemporary challenge for global managers” (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Nova School of Business and Economics, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Patrícia Lopes Costa
Patrícia LOPES COSTA is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior at Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL). Her research focuses on team effectiveness, particularly on team interpersonal processes and affective-motivational emergent states of teams, and has been published in leading journals. She also acts as a consultant in organizational psychology, working with public and private institutions.
Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL), Lisbon, Portugal
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
You still have to read 97% of this article
Purchase full-text 5,00€ 26 pages, electronic only
(html and pdf)
add_shopping_cart Add to cart
Other option
Member of a subscribed institution ? business Authenticate
Uploaded on on 17/12/2021
Distribution électronique pour ESKA © ESKA. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. Il est interdit, sauf accord préalable et écrit de l’éditeur, de reproduire (notamment par photocopie) partiellement ou totalement le présent article, de le stocker dans une banque de données ou de le communiquer au public sous quelque forme et de quelque manière que ce soit.
Loading... Please wait