Sensemaking in Organizations: Taking Stock and Moving Forward

Published on Jan 1, 2014in The Academy of Management Annals12.29
· 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...
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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 Apr 1, 2014in Management Learning1.94
Ian Colville11
Estimated H-index: 11
(University of Bath),
Bjørn Hennestad7
Estimated H-index: 7
(BI Norwegian Business School),
Kristoffer Thoner1
Estimated H-index: 1
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...
Published on Mar 1, 2014in Journal of Management Studies5.84
Feng Liu2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Warw.: University of Warwick),
Sally Maitlis24
Estimated H-index: 24
(UBC: University of British Columbia)
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...
Published on Mar 1, 2014in Organization Studies3.54
Aegean Leung8
Estimated H-index: 8
Charlene Zietsma16
Estimated H-index: 16
Ana Maria Peredo15
Estimated H-index: 15
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...
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 Journal of Organizational Behavior5.00
Kelly Fisher5
Estimated H-index: 5
(College of Business Administration),
Kate Hutchings24
Estimated H-index: 24
(Griffith University)
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...
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...
Elisabeth Naima Mikkelsen3
Estimated H-index: 3
(CBS: Copenhagen Business School)
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...
Published on Apr 1, 2013in Organization Studies3.54
Maurizio Catino6
Estimated H-index: 6
(University of Milan),
Gerardo Patriotta16
Estimated H-index: 16
(University of Nottingham)
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...
Cited By316
Published on Dec 1, 2019
Lisa van der Werff4
Estimated H-index: 4
(DCU: Dublin City University),
Gracie Fox (DCU: Dublin City University)+ 3 AuthorsTheo Lynn7
Estimated H-index: 7
(DCU: Dublin City University)
The lack of transparency surrounding cloud service provision makes it difficult for consumers to make knowledge based purchasing decisions. As a result, consumer trust has become a major impediment to cloud computing adoption. Cloud Trust Labels represent a means of communicating relevant service and security information to potential customers on the cloud service provided, thereby facilitating informed decision making. This research investigates the potential of a Cloud Trust Label system to ov...
Published on 2019in Scandinavian Journal of Management1.42
Catherine Bailey7
Estimated H-index: 7
('KCL': King's College London),
Adrian Madden5
Estimated H-index: 5
(University of Greenwich)
Abstract In this article, we address a gap in the meaningful work literature by exploring the processes by which work is experienced as meaningless. We adopt the lens of relational sociology and, through interviews with 45 participants in four very different occupations, we found that meaninglessness arises through four relational processes: powerlessness, disconnection, devaluation and self-doubt. Individuals enacted six agential responses to this experience. Two of these, resisting and respons...
Published on Dec 1, 2019in Safety Science3.62
Nick Oliver23
Estimated H-index: 23
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh),
Tom Calvard3
Estimated H-index: 3
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh),
Kristina Potocnik11
Estimated H-index: 11
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh)
Abstract In commercial aviation, loss of control (LOC) incidents are currently the single biggest cause of accident fatalities. Although LOC incidents typically have multiple causes, inappropriate flight crew responses to unfamiliar conditions are a major contributor. It has been suggested that restricted exposure to unusual aircraft behavior and limited manual flying are partly responsible for this, both of which are aggravated by high levels of flight deck automation. In this paper, we draw on...
Published on May 1, 2019in Computers in Human Behavior4.31
Diana Fischer-Preßler , Carsten Schwemmer1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Bamberg)
+ 0 AuthorsKai Fischbach16
Estimated H-index: 16
Abstract Recent terrorist attacks have increased the need to examine the public's response to such threats. This study focuses on the content of Twitter messages related to the 2016 terrorist attack on the Berlin Christmas market. We complement the collective sense-making perspective with the terror management theory (TMT) perspective to understand why people used Twitter in the aftermath of the attack. We use structural topic modeling to analyze our dataset of 51,000 tweets. Our results indicat...
Published on Apr 24, 2019
Riana Steen3
Estimated H-index: 3
(BI Norwegian Business School),
Riana Steen
This paper presents an alternative and broader security risk perspective, incorporating uncertainty, as a two-dimensional combination of (1) threat (Th) on value (Vl), (2) vulnerability (Vu) given coping capabilities (Cc), and associated uncertainties U (will the threat scenario occur? and to what degree are we vulnerable?). Moreover, this work attempts to provide an integrated approach to the safety and security fields. We look closely into the issues related to Safety-I, Safety-II and security...
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...
Haim Shaked6
Estimated H-index: 6
Chen Schechter12
Estimated H-index: 12
(BIU: Bar-Ilan University)
ABSTRACTSchool principals‘ decisions are made within the complex organizations called schools. This study explored how systems thinking is reflected in principals‘ perceptions about their decision-making processes. Based on a qualitative analysis of interviews and focus groups, principals‘ descriptions of their own effective decision-making reflected systems thinking in the following three areas: (1) expanding the number of choices; (2) identifying possible consequences of various alternatives; ...
Published on Mar 8, 2019in Human Resource Development Quarterly3.00
Adalgisa Battistelli6
Estimated H-index: 6
(University of Bordeaux),
Carlo Odoardi5
Estimated H-index: 5
(UniFI: University of Florence)
+ 2 AuthorsL. Piccione
View next paperMaking sense of the sensemaking perspective: Its constituents, limitations, and opportunities for further development