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Reaching organizational ambidexterity in the merger process: a temporal switching

Anne-Sophie Thelisson (Department of Strategy, ESDES, Lyon, France) (The Catholic University of Lyon, Lyon, France)
Audrey Missonier (Department of Strategy, Montpellier Business School, Montpellier, France)
Gilles Guieu (Department of Strategy, Aix-Marseille University, Aix-en-Provence Cedex, France)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 12 August 2019

Issue publication date: 12 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore how a company reaches organizational ambidexterity during a merger process. Organizational ambidexterity refers to the proactive adaptations of an organization to simultaneously explore and exploit.


The paper presents a longitudinal case study of a public-private merger of two listed French companies. The data were collected from participant observation, interviews and archival documentation over two years.


The balance between autonomy and control by the parent companies evolves during the post-merger integration. The findings reveal that there was no concordance between the oscillations between autonomy and control on the part of the parent companies and the new organization’s exploration/exploitation strategies. However, the progressive evolution of control and autonomy from the parent companies engendered organizational ambidexterity during the third phase integration.

Practical implications

The study adds insight into how organizations can develop ways to manage organizational ambidexterity dynamics by employing temporal mechanisms, referring to an organization’s shifting sequentially between exploration and exploitation. The case highlights how temporal switching between exploration and exploitation occurs to ultimately enable ambidexterity.


Although organizational ambidexterity is recognized as a key element for post-merger integration, how it is achieved over the course of the merger process has received little attention. The study highlights that in the case of public-private mergers, the parent companies influence exploration and/or exploitation strategies. The paper adds insights on whether exploration and exploitation can be differentiated over time and whether exploration and exploitation can be reconciled at the same time.



Thelisson, A.-S., Missonier, A. and Guieu, G. (2019), "Reaching organizational ambidexterity in the merger process: a temporal switching", Management Decision, Vol. 58 No. 5, pp. 879-896.



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