Making sense of the sensemaking perspective: Its constituents, limitations, and opportunities for further development

Published on Feb 1, 2015in Journal of Organizational Behavior5.00
· DOI :10.1002/job.1937
Jörgen Sandberg21
Estimated H-index: 21
(UQ: University of Queensland),
Haridimos Tsoukas39
Estimated H-index: 39
(UCY: University of Cyprus)
Through a wide-ranging critical review of relevant publications, we explore and articulate what constitutes the sensemaking perspective in organization studies, as well as its range of applications and limitations. More specifically, we argue that sensemaking in organizations has been seen as consisting of specific episodes, is triggered by ambiguous events, occurs through specific processes, generates specific outcomes, and is influenced by several situational factors. Furthermore, we clarify the application range of the sensemaking perspective and identify, as well as account for, the types and aspects of organizational sensemaking that have been under-researched. We critically discuss the criticism that the sensemaking perspective has received so far and selectively expand on it. Finally, we identify the main limitations of the sensemaking perspective, which, if tackled, will advance it: the neglect of prospective sensemaking, the exclusive focus on disruptive episodes at the expense of more mundane forms of sensemaking implicated in routine activities, the ambiguous status of enactment, the conflation of first-order and second-order sensemaking, and the lack of proper attention to embodied sensemaking. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • References (128)
  • Citations (94)
Published on Jul 1, 2014in Journal of Management Studies5.84
Joep Cornelissen33
Estimated H-index: 33
(VU: VU University Amsterdam),
Saku Mantere17
Estimated H-index: 17
(Hanken School of Economics),
Eero Vaara41
Estimated H-index: 41
(Hanken School of Economics)
In this paper, we seek to understand how individuals, as part of a collective, commit themselves to a single, and possibly erroneous, frame, as a basis for sensemaking and coordinated actions. Using real-time data from an anti-terrorist police operation that led to the accidental shooting of an innocent civilian, we analyse how individual actors framed their circumstances in communication with one another and how this affected their subsequent interpretations and actions as events unfolded. Our ...
Published on Jan 1, 2014in The Academy of Management Annals12.29
Sally Maitlis24
Estimated H-index: 24
(UBC: University of British Columbia),
Marlys K. Christianson10
Estimated H-index: 10
(U of T: University of Toronto)
Sensemaking is the process through which people work to understand issues or events that are novel, ambiguous, confusing, or in some other way violate expectations. As an activity central to organizing, sensemaking has been the subject of considerable research which has intensified over the last decade. We begin this review with a historical overview of the field, and develop a definition of sensemaking rooted in recurrent themes from the literature. We then review and integrate existing theory ...
Published on Nov 1, 2013in Organization2.70
Ali Yakhlef12
Estimated H-index: 12
(Stockholm University),
Anna Essén9
Estimated H-index: 9
(Stockholm University)
The Heideggerian strand of organization studies has highlighted important aspects of organizational practices. Because of the emphasis of the practice-oriented approach on routine practice, researchers have taken a special interest in how innovative, improvised action arises. One of the dominant views is that innovative action is the outcome of different variations in everyday practices. Insightful though these studies are, they do not recognize the role of the body in their conceptualization. T...
Published on Sep 1, 2013in Human Relations3.37
Ian Colville11
Estimated H-index: 11
(University of Bath),
Annie Pye21
Estimated H-index: 21
(University of Exeter),
Mike Carter1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Exeter)
Organizations increasingly find themselves contending with circumstances that are suffused with dynamic complexity. So how do they make sense of and contend with this? Using a sensemaking approach, our empirical case analysis of the shooting of Mr Jean Charles de Menezes shows how sensemaking is tested under such conditions. Through elaborating the relationship between the concepts of frames and cues, we find that the introduction of a new organizational routine to anticipate action in changing ...
Published on Aug 1, 2013in Organizational psychology review4.11
Sally Maitlis24
Estimated H-index: 24
(UBC: University of British Columbia),
Timothy J. Vogus19
Estimated H-index: 19
(Vandy: Vanderbilt University),
Thomas B. Lawrence38
Estimated H-index: 38
(SFU: Simon Fraser University)
Emotion is a critical but relatively unexplored dimension of sensemaking in organizations. Existing models of sensemaking tend to ignore the role of emotion or portray it as an impediment. To address this problem, we explore the role that felt emotion plays in three stages of individual sensemaking in organizations. First, we examine emotion’s role in mediating the relationship between unexpected events and the onset of sensemaking processes. We argue that emotion signals the need for and provid...
Published on Jul 1, 2013in Organization Science3.26
Sarah Kaplan18
Estimated H-index: 18
(U of T: University of Toronto),
Wanda J. Orlikowski59
Estimated H-index: 59
(MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
This paper reports on a field study of strategy making in one organization facing an industry crisis. In a comparison of five strategy projects, we observed that organizational participants struggled with competing interpretations of what might emerge in the future, what was currently at stake, and even what had happened in the past. We develop a model of temporal work in strategy making that articulates how actors resolved differences and linked their interpretations of the past, present, and f...
Published on Apr 1, 2013in Academy of Management Review10.63
Dionysios D. Dionysiou1
Estimated H-index: 1
(American College of Greece),
Haridimos Tsoukas39
Estimated H-index: 39
(Warw.: University of Warwick)
Drawing on symbolic interactionism, we propose a process model for the creation and recreation of routines. Our model extends the performative perspective by exploring how routines, as collective accomplishments, are (re)created from within. In particular, we examine the mutual constitution of routines' constituent parts (performative and ostensive) through interaction, and we develop endogenous explanations of routine (re)creation grounded on the actions and understandings of mutually susceptib...
Published on May 19, 2013
Paul R. Carlile15
Estimated H-index: 15
1. Introducing the Third Volume of Perspectives on Organization Studies 2. Ma(R)King Time: Material Entanglements and Re-Memberings: Cutting Together-Apart 3. Reflections on Sociomateriality and Dialogicality in Organization Studies: from Inter-' to Intra-Thinking ... in Performing Practices 4. Materializing the Immaterial: Relational Movements in a Perfume s Becoming 5. Media as Material: Information Representations as Material Foundations for Organizational Practice 6. Knowledge Eclipse: Produ...
Published on Mar 1, 2013in Organization Studies3.54
Pernilla Bolander1
Estimated H-index: 1
Joergen Sandberg3
Estimated H-index: 3
Existing literature on employee selection contains an abundance of knowledge of how selection should take place but almost nothing about how it occurs in practice. This paper presents an ethnomethodological-discourse analytical real-time study of how selection decisions are made in situ. The main findings suggest that selection decision making is characterized by ongoing practical deliberation involving four interrelated discursive processes: assembling versions of the candidates; establishing t...
Published on Feb 1, 2013in Academy of Management Journal7.19
Ann Langley38
Estimated H-index: 38
(HEC Montréal),
Clive Smallman19
Estimated H-index: 19
(University of Western Sydney)
+ 1 AuthorsAndrew H. Van de Ven54
Estimated H-index: 54
(UMN: University of Minnesota)
Process studies focus attention on how and why things emerge, develop, grow, or terminate over time. We identify various ontological assumptions underlying process research, explore its methods and challenges, and draw out some of its substantive contributions revealed in this Special Research Forum on Process Studies of Change in Organization and Management. Process studies take time seriously, illuminate the role of tensions and contradictions in driving patterns of change, and show how intera...
Cited By94
Published on Feb 1, 2019in Journal of Vocational Behavior3.39
Jane Sturges16
Estimated H-index: 16
('KCL': King's College London),
Michael Clinton13
Estimated H-index: 13
('KCL': King's College London)
+ 1 AuthorsAlexandra Budjanovcanin4
Estimated H-index: 4
('KCL': King's College London)
Abstract This paper draws on the concept of sensemaking to explore the process of the emergence of a calling. Important elements of the calling process are identified: the calling process was initiated when research participants construed unusual events and experiences as cues that made them begin to think that they might have a calling; cues initiated sensemaking, as participants engaged in interpretation and action, to try to clarify what they meant. The socio-material context of the calling d...
Published on Sep 1, 2019in Energy research and social science
Georgina Wood2
Estimated H-index: 2
(University of Birmingham),
Georgina Wernham + 9 AuthorsObiajulu Chukwudi Iweka1
Estimated H-index: 1
Abstract Smart metering of domestic energy use allows consumer feedback through in-home displays (IHDs), websites or smart phone apps. Research has illustrated the need for additional ‘sense-making’ information to help households make informed energy-related decisions. This study investigates how household members respond when energy consumption data is integrated with information on indoor environmental conditions (IECs) and coupled with advice on energy saving actions. An integrated system of ...
Published on Jul 1, 2019in Journal of Accounting Education
William B. Mesa (Metropolitan State University of Denver)
Abstract This paper takes a sensemaking perspective for purposes of better understanding the learning processes of students engaged in data analytics tasks and thus provide an enriched approach to teaching the subject. A sensemaking perspective addresses a gap in the accounting education literature by describing the learning processes associated with conducting data analytics tasks. A case study methodology was used by conducting an exploratory study of students’ sensemaking activities while eng...
Published on 2019in Information Systems Journal3.29
Adrian Yeow6
Estimated H-index: 6
(NUS: National University of Singapore),
Cecil Eng Huang Chua (Information Technology University)
Published on Apr 1, 2019in Futures2.21
Sara Walton12
Estimated H-index: 12
(University of Otago),
Paula O’Kane1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Otago),
Diane Ruwhiu4
Estimated H-index: 4
(University of Otago)
Abstract Scenario planning is used by organizations and institutions to help understand futures, expand imaginations and to sensitize for changing business environments. The scenario planning process can help deal with uncertainties in an increasingly dynamic environment, particularly if they are perceived as plausible. To explore the practicalities of developing plausible scenarios we utilised a case study, and involved key stakeholders, to investigate the ‘Future of Work’ in Dunedin, Aotearoa,...
Published on Jan 1, 2019
Elena Antonacopoulou , Ted Fuller13
Estimated H-index: 13
Ted Fuller
We extend the Entrepreneurship as Practice debate by making the case for the lived experience of entrepreneuring, i.e. when entrepreneurship is practised as part of the everyday, seizing moments that define action as entrepreneurial. We focus not only on the enactment and embodiment of entrepreneurial practices but also their emplacement. Emplacement goes beyond context, process and practice in entrepreneuring, to account for ways entrepreneurial practices are formed, performed and transformed w...
Published on Jan 1, 2019
Nisha Quraishi , Nicholas Moon + 4 AuthorsRichard L. Griffith12
Estimated H-index: 12
Published on Jul 4, 2019in Business Ethics Quarterly2.79
Pauline Fatien Diochon2
Estimated H-index: 2
Jean Nizet5
Estimated H-index: 5
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