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Making sense of common sense for change management buy‐in

Michael Y. Moon (Department of Public Affairs and Administration, California State University, Hayward, California, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 3 April 2009




The concept of common sense has not received much attention in the organization literature. In this paper, I propose a model that links a change agent's self‐awareness and reflexivity, his or her sensemaking of common sense perspectives related to planned change, and buy‐in among organization stakeholders. The case is made for change agents to pay close attention to common sense perspectives because they can become the basis for particular problematic ambivalence and diminished change buy‐in among stakeholders in the organization. This paper aims to address these issues.


Conceptual and theoretical rationales for the model are offered. Examples from the psychological and organizational theory literatures provide support for the various elements of the model.


Common sense perspectives should be factored into the diagnosis of the organization. Self‐awareness, reflexivity, and sensemaking are all forms of social awareness that are necessary to engage stakeholders on matters of common sense.

Research implications

Four research areas are identified. First, social and cultural contextual influences on common sense require clarification. Second, if resistance is multidimensional, how are dimensions influenced by common sense? Third, what group level of the organization (e.g., individual, group, organization) do common sense perspectives represent? Fourth, how may change agents work out incommensurate common sense perspectives?

Practical implications

Common sense cannot be mandated. Change agents must maintain self‐awareness and reflexivity as they work with stakeholders in a sensemaking process. Increased buy‐in emerges through minimizing ambivalence towards change.


Little, if anything, has been written on the use of common sense in organizational change management.



Moon, M.Y. (2009), "Making sense of common sense for change management buy‐in", Management Decision, Vol. 47 No. 3, pp. 518-532.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited