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Article
Publication date: 24 August 2010

Jean Helms Mills, Amy Thurlow and Albert J. Mills

The purpose of this paper is to revisit the oft cited but as yet not operationalized Weick's sensemaking framework, in order to provide suggested ways forward. Development…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to revisit the oft cited but as yet not operationalized Weick's sensemaking framework, in order to provide suggested ways forward. Development of a method based on Weick's sensemaking is suggested as a starting point for a heuristic that takes into account missing elements from his original model while operationalizing (critical) sensemaking as an analytical tool for understanding organizational events.

Design/methodology/approach

Following the trajectory of sensemaking, the limitations of Weick's model were discussed (i.e. failure to address power and context) and the critical sensemaking was developed as a method that takes into account agency in context. Empirical studies that apply sensemaking were discussed.

Findings

It is concluded that plausibility and identity construction are key to understanding how some voices are heard over others and through critical sensemaking sense that can be made of such phenomena as the gendering or organizational culture and discriminatory practices in organizations.

Practical implications

A heuristic can help people to understand the socio‐psychological properties involved in behavioural outcomes.

Originality/value

Critical sensemaking builds on and operationalizes Weick's original sensemaking approach and demonstrates how it can be used in a range of empirical studies, something that Weick himself suggested was lacking.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 5 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

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Article
Publication date: 27 November 2018

Eeva Aromaa, Päivi Eriksson, Jean Helms Mills, Esa Hiltunen, Maarit Lammassaari and Albert J. Mills

The purpose of this paper is to analyze current literature on critical sensemaking (CSM) to assess its significance and potential for understanding the role of agency in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze current literature on critical sensemaking (CSM) to assess its significance and potential for understanding the role of agency in management and organizational studies.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis involves an examination of a selection of 51 applied studies that cite, draw on and contribute to CSM, to assess the challenges and potential of utilizing CSM.

Findings

The paper reveals the range of organizational issues that this work has been grappling with; the unique insights that CSM has revealed in the study of management and organizations; and some of the challenges and promises of CSM for studying agency in context. This sets up discussion of organizational issues and insights provided by CSM to reveal its potential in dealing with issues of agency in organizations. The sheer scope of CSM studies indicates that it has relevance for a range of management researchers, including those interested in behavior at work, theories of organization, leadership and crisis management, diversity management, emotion, ethics and justice, and many more.

Research limitations/implications

The main focus is restricted to providing a working knowledge of CSM rather than other approaches to agency.

Practical implications

The paper outlines the challenges and potential for applying the CSM theory.

Social implications

The paper reveals the range of problem-solving issues that CSM studies have been applied to.

Originality/value

This is the first major review of the challenges and potential of applying CSM; concluding with a discussion of its strengths and limitations and providing a summary of insights for future work.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 14 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

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Article
Publication date: 29 November 2019

Adriana van Hilten

The purpose of this paper is to introduce Bourdieu’s social theory, and its “thinking tools” of habitus, doxa, field and capital, as a sensemaking theory.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to introduce Bourdieu’s social theory, and its “thinking tools” of habitus, doxa, field and capital, as a sensemaking theory.

Design/methodology/approach

The emic research studied, for a particular group, the firm-wide implementation of a new system. The study used data occurring naturally in the organization (executive newsletters), and externally (third-party surveys), as well as 23 participant interviews to structure the social space (field) and determine what is of interest (identity). Interviews were coded for habitus, doxa, field, capital, symbolic violence and strategies to re-assert interviewees’ own doxa versus logic imposed by the powerful.

Findings

A unique, esteemed identity was being erased through executive attempts to introduce a new culture at the firm, and the new systems represented a challenge to this valued identity. Participants used strategies to re-assert their identity through not participating in the logic of the new tool: discussing misuse, lack of use, relative unimportance and low priority of the new tool.

Practical implications

Change that threatens an esteemed, valued identity is more likely to be resisted. The logic of an established practice or system (beyond merely gathering user requirements) is beneficial in understanding potential reactions to a new system. Change in systems that occur simultaneously with the imposition of a new culture, particularly where the system is seen as being a representation of that imposed culture, may be resisted through non-practice (misuse or lack of use) of the new system.

Originality/value

The paper demonstrates the applicability of Bourdieu’s social theory to organizational studies, providing a sensemaking of change and acts of resistance.

Details

Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0953-4814

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Article
Publication date: 4 November 2013

Mariana Ines Paludi and Jean Helms Mills

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the critical management literature through a fusion of Latin and North American lenses (one author is from Argentina and one…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the critical management literature through a fusion of Latin and North American lenses (one author is from Argentina and one from Canada), to question the extant women in management literature, which is rooted in an epistemology that serves to construct the notion of a broad, universal set of expectations of the role of men, women and managers, in which other ethnic groups, in this case men and women from so-called Latin American countries, are taken for granted.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a critical sensemaking lens, the paper explores the narratives of female executives in Argentina to help us understand how these women make sense of their careers within a Latin American context and the implications and outcomes of this understanding. The paper's approach involves three interrelated elements – feminist poststructuralism, postcolonialism and critical sensemaking.

Findings

The narratives from the Argentinian executives reveals the tension between different cultures and idiosyncrasies among countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico; and that the way to navigate those differences entails understanding and learning about the other. These executive women from Argentina – las jefas – are heard mainly because they represent the managerial identity that multi-national corporations foster in any overseas branch.

Research limitations/implications

In terms of the data used in this study, the paper acknowledges that this is an exploratory study that allows us to access women's stories from a pre-existing source. The paper recognizes that the authors are limited by the texts that are secondary sources, and if the authors had been able to conduct the interviews themselves they might have asked different questions.

Practical implications

The findings of this research can help organizations to develop and implement a pluriversal and inclusive equity training programme through and awareness of the sensemaking of those involved.

Originality/value

The use of a critical framework on postcolonialism, feminism and postructuralism together with critical sensemaking to understand female executives from the South of America.

Details

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, vol. 32 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-7149

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Article
Publication date: 28 August 2009

Amy Thurlow and Jean Helms Mills

The purpose of this paper is to focus on the change experience of a regional health centre that was merged in the late 1990s and shows how organizational talk becomes…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to focus on the change experience of a regional health centre that was merged in the late 1990s and shows how organizational talk becomes privileged in the change process, and how some talk becomes meaningful in the constitution of organizational identity.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper analyzes the process through which some talk is privileged in the organizational change process. The deconstruction of language used throughout this analysis highlights the relationship between sites of power and the ability to affect sensemaking among organizational members. Using a post‐structuralist approach, the authors apply the analytic framework of critical sensemaking (CSM) and critical discourse analysis.

Findings

Organizational talk is presented as the enactment of a sensemaking process and insights are offered into the process of how organizational identities are maintained, altered or constrained during change. The discursive effects of the language of change, including the belief that change is actually a discursive process about the mutual constitution of language and identity in a process of making sense of the discourse of change, are discussed.

Research limitations/implications

The merging of critical discourse analysis with CSM provides an alternative means of understanding organizational change, including the socio‐psychological processes that occur within the privileging of the language of change.

Practical implications

For organizational change practitioners, the paper provides insights into the importance of how organizational members make sense of the change language discourse, which can affect how they introduce future change processes.

Originality/value

The paper provides a novel way of understanding the change process and furthers the empirical use of (critical) sensemaking as a method.

Details

Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 22 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0953-4814

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Abstract

Details

Insights and Research on the Study of Gender and Intersectionality in International Airline Cultures
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-546-7

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Publication date: 24 July 2020

Wayne A. Hochwarter, Ilias Kapoutsis, Samantha L. Jordan, Abdul Karim Khan and Mayowa Babalola

Persistent change has placed considerable pressure on organizations to keep up or fade into obscurity. Firms that remain viable, or even thrive, are staffed with…

Abstract

Persistent change has placed considerable pressure on organizations to keep up or fade into obscurity. Firms that remain viable, or even thrive, are staffed with decision-makers who capably steer organizations toward opportunities and away from threats. Accordingly, leadership development has never been more critical. In this chapter, the authors propose that leader development is an inherently dyadic process initiated to communicate formal and informal expectations. The authors focus on the informal component, in the form of organizational politics, as an element of leadership that is critical to employee and company success. The authors advocate that superiors represent the most salient information source for leader development, especially as it relates to political dynamics embedded in work systems. The authors discuss research associated with our conceptualization of dyadic political leader development (DPLD). Specifically, the authors develop DPLD by exploring its conceptual underpinnings as they relate to sensemaking, identity, and social learning theories. Once established, the authors provide a refined discussion of the construct, illustrating its scholarly mechanisms that better explain leader development processes and outcomes. The authors then expand research in the areas of political skill, political will, political knowledge, and political phronesis by embedding our conceptualization of DPLD into a political leadership model. The authors conclude by discussing methodological issues and avenues of future research stemming from the development of DPLD.

Details

Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-076-1

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Article
Publication date: 6 January 2012

Chris Hartt, Jean Helms Mills and Albert J. Mills

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of history in the creation of gender dynamics at work.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of history in the creation of gender dynamics at work.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on an ANTi‐history – which draws on actor‐network theory (ANT) – and critical sensemaking framework, the authors analyze a written history of a teachers' union to examine how historically contextualized networks of actors shape notions of gender.

Findings

The findings support the notion of history as socially constructed story telling, which serves to shape rather than describe gendered relations at work.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited to archival materials as the participants are not available as direct informants. Archives by their nature are incomplete and some accounts are summaries.

Practical implications

Understanding the socially constructed role of history will help management educators and practitioners to examine historical accounts as part of the problem of gendered relations. The paper reinforces the notion that understanding of discrimination may be lost as power imbalances are written out of historical accounts in the attempt to be politically correct.

Originality/value

The paper's contribution to research lies in its application of new methods of historical analysis (namely, ANTi‐history and critical sensemaking) and a focus on history as a powerful sensemaking device that shapes on‐going sensemaking.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 18 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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Article
Publication date: 5 May 2015

Rosalie K. Hilde and Albert Mills

This paper aims to report on a preliminary study of how professionally qualified immigrants from Hong Kong to Canada make sense of their experiences, particularly…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to report on a preliminary study of how professionally qualified immigrants from Hong Kong to Canada make sense of their experiences, particularly workplace opportunities.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is framed by a Critical Sensemaking approach, involving in-depth interviews with 12 informants from the Hong Kong Chinese community and discursive analysis (Foucault, 1979) of the local and formative contexts in which they are making sense of workplace opportunities.

Findings

The findings suggest that a dominant discourse of “integration” strongly influences the way that professionally qualified immigrants come to accept the unchallenged assumptions that the government is providing help for them to “get in”; and that ethnic service organizations are offering positive guidance to the immigrants’ workplace goals and opportunities. Immigrants’ identity and self-worth are measured by whether they “get in” – integrate – into so-called mainstream society. The effect of this hidden discourse has been to marginalize some immigrants in relation to workplace opportunities.

Research limitations/implications

The interplay of structural (i.e. formative contexts and organizational rules), socio-psychological (i.e. sensemaking properties) and discursive contexts (e.g. discourses of immigration) are difficult to detail over time. The interplay – although important – is difficult to document and trace over a relatively short period of time and may, more appropriately lend itself to more longitudinal research.

Practical implications

This paper strongly suggests that we need to move beyond structural accounts to capture the voice and agency of immigrants. In particular, as we have tried to show, the sensemaking and sensemaking contexts in which immigrants find themselves provide important insights to the immigrant experience.

Social implications

This paper suggests widespread policy implications, with a call for greater use of qualitative methods in the study of immigrant experience. It is suggested that policymakers need to move beyond uniform and structural approaches to immigration. How selected immigrants in context make sense of their experiences and how this can help to identify improved policies need to be understood.

Originality/value

This paper is original in going beyond both structural and psychological accounts of immigration. Through the developing method of Critical Sensemaking, the study combines a focus on structure and social psychology and their interplay. Thus, providing insights not only to the broad discriminatory practices that so-called non-White immigrants face in Canada (and likely other industrial societies) but how these are made sense of. The study is also unique in attempting to fuse sensemaking and discourse analysis to show the interaction between individual sensemaking in the context of dominant discourses.

Details

critical perspectives on international business, vol. 11 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1742-2043

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Article
Publication date: 12 October 2020

Mary A. Furey, Lawrence T. Corrigan and Jean Helms Mills

This study aims to examine the textual performance of the Ocean Ranger Disaster inquiry, thus responding to recent calls to “practice context” in historical writing. This…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the textual performance of the Ocean Ranger Disaster inquiry, thus responding to recent calls to “practice context” in historical writing. This study goes beyond the epistemological assumptions about the grounds for knowing about the past as the authors explore how history is produced in the context of power relations.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper imagines history-making as a storytelling performance. The authors combine critical historiography and critical sensemaking because these qualitative perspectives help us to understand the composition of the Ocean Ranger Royal Commission Report.

Findings

This case study makes a contribution within the genre of disaster inquiry reporting. The study explains how a formal historical record (the public inquiry report) may be created and how the report is related to aspects of power embedded in a writer’s sense of reality.

Social implications

The Ocean Ranger Disaster continues to be of tremendous importance to the people of Newfoundland, Canada. There have been numerous studies of the disaster, but these have been overwhelmingly focused on technical matters. To authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to consider the inquiry from an historical context perspective.

Originality/value

The study site enables reflection on a question not often asked in the management history literature: How can we critically understand the composition of an official disaster inquiry report in the context of its power relations?

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 27 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

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