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Successful IT business transformations require a departure from silo thinking in individual projects to a broader perspective in holistic, process-oriented programs. Such programs face latent paradoxical tensions that can become salient throughout their (re-)design and execution. Prior research suggests ambidextrous leadership by the program management team to resolve such salient paradoxical tensions. However, little is known about whether such unilateral and top-down approaches can restore sustainable equilibria or even trigger follow-up tensions between program-level objectives and project-level needs. Therefore, this study explores whether and how ambidextrous leadership to resolve strategic tensions can trigger follow-up tensions and how such follow-up tensions can be addressed to restore sustainable equilibria. To this end, we conducted an ethnographic study in an IT transformation program at a large Central European telecommunications company. We find that ambidextrous leadership is likely to create ripple effects by increasing belonging tensions between projects and programs, thus preventing sustainable equilibria. Moreover, we identify three ways programs and projects can address such follow-up tension. Our findings have significant implications for program management theory, paradox theory, and practice.



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