Purpose The purpose of this paper is to answer the question of how continuity and change coexist in the work of institutional actors who can combine maintenance, disruption and/or creation. Past studies mention this coexistence without an explanation. Design/methodology/approach The paper develops a perspective through literature review. Findings Institutional actors are both socialized into the norm-oriented space of continuity and maintenance through their reciprocal relations and associated social knowledge and roles and disciplined into the goal-oriented space of change and disruption/creation through their power relations and associated expert discourse and subject positions. Their institutional existence indicates a particular combination of reciprocity and power and thus their work includes changing degrees of maintenance, disruption and creation, depending on the nature of this combination.