Sensemaking in Organizations: Taking Stock and Moving Forward

Published on Jan 1, 2014in The Academy of Management Annals12.289
· DOI :10.1080/19416520.2014.873177
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 and research, focusing on two key bodies of work. The first explores how sensemaking is accomplished, unpacking the sensemaking process by examining how events become triggers for sensemaking, how intersubjective meaning is created, and the role of action in sensemaking. The second body considers how sensemaking enables the accomplishment of other key organizational processes, such organizational change, learning, and creativity and innovation. The final part of the chapter draws on areas of difference and debate h...
Figures & Tables
  • References (289)
  • Citations (354)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
1 Author (Karl E. Weick)
9,732 Citations
107 Citations
1,799 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Joep Cornelissen (VU: VU University Amsterdam)H-Index: 35
#2Saku Mantere (Hanken School of Economics)H-Index: 19
Last. Eero Vaara (Hanken School of Economics)H-Index: 42
view all 3 authors...
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 ...
54 CitationsSource
#1Ian Colville (University of Bath)H-Index: 11
#2Bjørn W. Hennestad (BI Norwegian Business School)H-Index: 8
Last. Kristoffer ThonerH-Index: 1
view all 3 authors...
This article adopts a sensemaking perspective to explore changing and learning in an organization that has been making the same product for more than 175 years. Using an insider/outsider methodology, this case provides evidence of dynamic, ongoing processes of changing and learning across time, albeit without formal change intervention. We conclude that organizational becoming, learning and change are found in the juxtaposing of order and disorder, frames of past learning and cues of present act...
17 CitationsSource
#1Aegean Leung (UVic: University of Victoria)H-Index: 7
#2Charlene Zietsma (York University)H-Index: 17
Last. Ana Maria Peredo (UVic: University of Victoria)H-Index: 15
view all 3 authors...
How do relatively low-power, role-constrained actors break through their constraints in a highly institutionalized environment? Examining the experience of Japanese middle-class housewives involved in a social enterprise, we developed a model of emergent identity work which outlines how actors who enacted their role values in new domains triggered a process of learning and sensemaking which led to spiralling cycles of role boundary expansion. In this process, facilitated by an enabling collectiv...
38 CitationsSource
#1Feng Liu (Warw.: University of Warwick)H-Index: 2
#2Sally Maitlis (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 24
An important but largely unexplored issue in the study of strategy-as-discourse is how emotion affects the discursive processes through which strategy is constructed. To address this question, this paper investigates displayed emotions in strategic conversations and explores how the emotional dynamics generated through these displays shape a top management team's strategizing. Using microethnography, we analyse conversations about ten strategic issues raised across seven top management team meet...
70 CitationsSource
#1Kelly Fisher (College of Business Administration)H-Index: 5
#2Kate Hutchings (Griffith University)H-Index: 25
Summary This research examines the relationship between cultural distance (CD) and intercultural adjustment for Australian military advisers who trained and lead foreign soldiers during the Vietnam War. Situated cognition is used to identify six salient attributes of CD for the military advisers, and a conceptual framework is proposed on the basis of shared mental models (schemata) that illustrate the relationship between CD and expatriate adjustment in an extreme context. The findings highlight...
17 CitationsSource
#1Sarah Kaplan (U of T: University of Toronto)H-Index: 18
#2Wanda J. Orlikowski (MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)H-Index: 57
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...
147 CitationsSource
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to display and critically reflect upon how field experiences in the research process interacted with the author's subjectivity and shaped her construction of knowledge about organisational conflict.Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on Weick's theoretical framework of sensemaking and the notion of reflexivity as a resource for dealing with research experiences, the paper presents empirical narratives that explore how research experiences of negotiating a...
11 CitationsSource
#1Sally Maitlis (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 24
#2Timothy J. Vogus (Vandy: Vanderbilt University)H-Index: 19
Last. Thomas B. Lawrence (SFU: Simon Fraser University)H-Index: 39
view all 3 authors...
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...
77 CitationsSource
#1Maurizio Catino (University of Milan)H-Index: 7
#2Gerardo Patriotta (University of Nottingham)H-Index: 17
Learning from errors is essential to ensuring organizational safety and improving levels of performance. We consider the interaction between cognition, emotions, and safety culture in the context of a field study on learning from errors in the Italian Air Force. We find that errors often stem from sequential action chains that are concealed in habitual behavior and that become visible only when unforeseen circumstances occur. Furthermore, cognitive appraisal of risky situations triggers emotions...
64 CitationsSource
#1Ian Colville (University of Bath)H-Index: 11
#2Annie Pye (University of Exeter)H-Index: 22
Last. Mike Carter (University of Exeter)H-Index: 1
view all 3 authors...
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 ...
40 CitationsSource
Cited By354
#1Sudhanshu Shekhar (IIMA: Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad)
#2Bhupesh Manoharan (IIM-C: Indian Institute of Management Calcutta)
Last. Krishanu Rakshit (IIM-C: Indian Institute of Management Calcutta)H-Index: 1
view all 3 authors...
Abstract This study explores how sudden disruptive changes lead to changes in institutional logic and associated consumption practices. The empirical context is provided by the demonetization of high-denomination currency in India in 2016. The findings reveal that micro-level consumption practices are embedded within macro-level social structures and institutions. Therefore, institutional changes lead to corresponding changes in the material, competence, and meaning dimensions of consumption pra...
#1X Zhu (PolyU: Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
#2Choo Mui Cheong (HKU: University of Hong Kong)H-Index: 2
Last. Jacqueline Wu (PolyU: Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
view all 4 authors...
Understanding reading comprehension processes is vital for teachers to effectively conduct teaching and assessment of reading in schools. Hong Kong students’ outstanding reading performance internationally is commonly attributed to the implementation of reading comprehension models in its Chinese language curriculum; however, the understanding of teachers’ conceptions of reading comprehension is still very limited. This phenomenographic study interviewed twenty-nine in-service Chinese language t...
#1Frauke Meyer (University of Auckland)H-Index: 4
#2Jacqueline Patuawa (University of Auckland)
#1Andrea Pettrachin (University of Sheffield)H-Index: 1
Through analysis of decision-making dynamics on migration in Sicily, this paper shows how party elites define strategies to politicize migration. Conventional explanations of the politicization of ...
#1Florian Hemme (High Point University)H-Index: 3
#2Matthew T. Bowers (University of Texas at Austin)H-Index: 6
Last. Jan Todd (University of Texas at Austin)H-Index: 6
view all 3 authors...
ABSTRACTDrawing from critical realism, institutional logics, and sensemaking, we examine how changing field level logics are encoded and enacted in organizational practice. In this paper, we make e...
#1Marie Røyksund (University of Stavanger)
#2Ole Andreas Engen (University of Stavanger)H-Index: 5
Abstract In the 2015 petroleum regulations update, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA-N) modified the risk definition, by highlighting uncertainty instead of probability as one of the core components of risk. Although much work has been conducted on how to assess and manage risk using an uncertainty-based risk perspective, the specific implications of such a risk perspective for a regulatory context have not been given equally attention. The paper seeks to bring new insights to this i...