the architects of sensemaking—change enablement: beyond the remix

April 25, 2024 |

Understanding and reimagining our rapidly evolving world is not just a destination but a thrilling process. At the heart of this journey is sensemaking, the act of interpreting and giving meaning to our collective experiences. This vital tool guides us through a continuous process of discovery, learning, and adaptation, highlighting its importance in this exhilarating journey and its relevance in navigating the complexities of change.

Why is this important in defining the unprecedented ways we will get there? How does this guide us? What do we get at the end?

Continuous Discovery and Learning: Sensemaking is not just a byproduct but a powerful tool that enriches our personal and professional lives. As we make sense of changes and emerging trends, we constantly acquire new knowledge and skills, a suite of new tools and approaches developed along the way, stimulating our growth and development.

Innovation and Creativity: Reimagining opens up possibilities for innovation. By challenging existing paradigms and considering what could be rather than what is, we unlock creative possibilities that can lead to breakthroughs in technology, business, and society.

Flexibility and Adaptation: Focusing on the journey rather than the destination allows for greater authentic flexibility. As we learn more and new situations arise, we can adapt our strategies and approaches. This adaptability, empowered by sensemaking, is crucial in a world where change is the only constant.

Guidance Provided by the Journey: The journey offers a roadmap for navigating change, and sensemaking is the compass that helps us proactively and thoughtfully shape our actions rather than just reacting to changes. This practical application of sensemaking highlights its benefits and gives us confidence in navigating change.

Exploring the Multifaceted Role of Sensemaking in Organizational Change and Innovation Across Disciplines

Imagine you’re trying to make sense of what’s happening in a room, but all you’ve got is a peek through a keyhole. Sounds challenging, right? That’s a lot like how we all understand the world—our view is limited to what we can immediately see or access. Just as looking through a keyhole shows you only a sliver of the room, our own perspectives are shaped by the narrow slice of reality we can grasp at any moment.

This is where the concept of sensemaking comes into play. It’s like piecing together a puzzle with only a few of the pieces visible through that keyhole. We take these snippets, these fragmented views, and try to weave them into a clearer, fuller picture of the world around us. And here’s the kicker: if we start searching for more pieces—seeking out new information and different viewpoints—we can widen that keyhole. Doing this not only expands our understanding but also enhances how we make sense of everything around us. Isn’t it fascinating how much more there is to see once we broaden our view?

Sensemaking is particularly critical in times of change and uncertainty—contexts in which change enablement agents operate. These agents can propose novel solutions and innovative approaches by reinterpreting the “been there, done that” through the lens of current realities and future possibilities.

Sensemaking is at the heart of change initiatives, weaving coherent narratives and frameworks that guide agents, organizational leadership, and employee groups through the complexities of human-centric change enablement.

The concept of “sensemaking” in research has been extensively explored across disciplines, including organizational studies, human-computer interaction, and cognitive science.

Charles Naumer, Karen E. Fisher, and Brenda Dervin highlight the application of Sensemaking methodology in understanding behavior.

Peter Pirolli and Daniel M. Russell edited a special issue consolidating significant advancements in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) sensemaking research. This work examines how people interact with technologies to organize and interpret data, emphasizing the continuous evolution of sensemaking theories within the digital context.

Sally Maitlis identifies four forms of organizational sensemaking—guided, fragmented, restricted, and minimal—determined by the level of “sensegiving” engagement from leaders and stakeholders. Each form displays unique interaction patterns, leading to specific outcomes in the generated accounts and actions.

Sally Maitlis and Marlys Christianson review critical trends in organizational sensemaking research, discussing the integration of ‘sensemaking’ and ‘sensegiving’ processes within organizational contexts. Their review illustrates how sensemaking frameworks have been used to understand organizational dynamics and leadership.

Sally Maitlais and Thomas B. Lawrence significantly contribute to understanding how organizational leaders and stakeholders can influence others’ sensemaking processes by identifying triggers and analyzing enablers for effective sensegiving.

Krista Halttunen, Raphael Slade, and Iain Staffell discuss the application of sensemaking in sustainability transitions, which may parallel some aspects of change management and enablement.

Elisabeth Naima Mikkelsen and Randi Wåhlin explore how power and politics influence sensemaking, a relevant factor in change management and change enablement.

Gary Klein, Brian Moon, and Robert R. Hoffman explore sensemaking within naturalistic decision-making. They examine how individuals and teams make decisions in complex and uncertain environments, offering a foundation for empirical research.

Jean Helms Mills, Amy Thurlow, and Albert J. Mills propose a ‘critical sensemaking’ approach, which integrates Karl Weick’s sensemaking theory (Weick, 1995Weick, 2012Weick, 2009Maitlis & Sonenshein, 2010) with critical theory to address power and identity issues in organizational settings. This perspective enriches the theoretical landscape by adding a crucial lens to traditional sensemaking discussions.

Revolutionizing Change: How Unconventional Sensemaking is Unlocking a New Era of Organizational Transformation

We are on the cusp of a new era in which change enablement practitioners drive transformation with sensemaking skills. These practitioners don’t just approach organizational change in conventional ways but are challenging the status quo and seeking to implement change through more creative, disruptive, human-centric strategies.

Understanding the Status Quo: By remixing the status quo, these architects and their practitioners transcend the mere pitching of ideas—they’re curating a reality playlist that empowers the collective and breathes life into stagnant waters.

This isn’t just about making incremental changes but also revolutionizing the approach to change and progress. It’s not just stitching a new quilt of ideas; these architects and their stakeholders are tailoring an entirely new wardrobe representing human-centric change and progress. They’re leading the charge, armed with the insight that change isn’t just inevitable but invaluable. Change or Be Changed, Disrupt or Be Disrupted.

At this pivotal crossroads, the real question isn’t whether we can afford to shift to change enablement—it’s whether we can afford not to. Those daring to look beyond change management’s confines are not just saying, ‘That’s how we’ve always done it,’ while sticking to yesterday’s trends and thinking change is about keeping pace and consuming the next big thing.

If that’s your approach, sorry, but you’re arriving fashionably late to the party. Instead, agents of change enablement are actively carving out the future.

Step away from the Change Management Record Store remix—it’s just the same old song with a catchier, refreshed hook. Are you ready for a real tune-up, or are you still swooning over yesterday’s hits? Are you tired of the herd mentality chorus?

Plunge into the mosh pit of true transformation, where we don’t just play the next groovy hit—we’re creating the music that revolutionizes the game.

Change enablement is not just about superficially adopting new tools or methods. It involves cultivating a deep understanding (sensemaking) and a shared vision (mindscapes and mindshare). These concepts are essential for laying the groundwork for revolutionary approaches to human-centric organizational change.

Transforming Brainwaves: Where do change enablement agents and mavericks redraw the boundaries of possibility?

Spotting the Obvious: The Art of Discovering You’re Behind the Times: So, you’ve figured out your business practices might be a tad outdated compared to what the market demands—bravo! Sensemaking to the rescue, pinpointing those glaring gaps where someone finally realized, “Hey, maybe we should do something innovative here.” This process helps identify areas where change is most needed, and creative solutions could have the most significant impact.

Spinning a Good Yarn: Ah, the power of a good story. Change enablement is about hard facts and selling a dream everyone buys into. Thanks to sensemaking, you can craft that perfect narrative that hooks your team emotionally and logically. This narrative becomes a powerful tool in motivating and guiding employees toward a new direction.

Encouraging Inclusivity and Participation: Everyone gets a say! Sensemaking turns the change process into a grand town hall meeting, making sure every Tom, Dick, and Harriet from the mailroom to the boardroom feels like they’re part of this thrilling ride. Because, of course, the best ideas always come from asking everyone and their dog for their two cents. Engaging multiple stakeholders ensures that the strategies developed are human-centric, broadly supported, and more likely to be successfully implemented.

Conquering the Fear of the Unknown: Change scares people, mainly because they have no clue what it means. But hey, let’s talk it out! Sensemaking is here to help everyone feel warm and fuzzy about the unknown by giving them a chance to chat about their resistance to change, fear of the unknown, or lack of understanding about the implications of change. Sensemaking helps address these fears by providing clarity, fostering open dialogue, and allowing stakeholders to express concerns and contribute ideas. This inclusive approach helps mitigate resistance and builds a coalition of support.

The Never-Ending Loop of ‘Aha!’ Moments: Who loves linear progress when you can run in circles? Sensemaking ensures that new surprises pop up just when you think you’ve nailed it, keeping everyone on their toes. It’s about adapting endlessly because what’s a strategy without a few curveballs? Sensemaking involves continuous adaptation and learning. Sensemaking allows practitioners to make sense of these developments in real-time and adjust strategies accordingly, ensuring that the change process remains relevant and practical.

Staying Nimble in the Corporate Jungle Gym: In a world that moves faster than a viral meme, being agile is non-negotiable. Sensemaking isn’t just about keeping up; it’s about staying ready to jump whichever the wind blows, ensuring your organization can pivot faster than a confused chameleon in a bag of Skittles. Keep spinning those narratives, championing inclusivity, and embracing the chaos of change—because that keeps the business world spinning!

Chaos Whisperers: How Sensemaking Wizards Turn Organizational Anarchy into a Symphony of Innovation

Are you navigating the corporate jungle? How do sensemaking practitioners craft order from organizational madness in change enablement?

Sensemaking is fundamental in leveraging a deep understanding of an organization and its culture to tailor change initiatives effectively. It involves interpreting and constructing meaning from organizational events, allowing individuals to understand and respond to changes.

Deciphering the Corporate Codex Ever wonder how employees and stakeholders magically grasp the arcane secrets of change initiatives? Sensemaking is like the Rosetta Stone for corporate babel. It doesn’t just foster a shared understanding; it begins with a deep dive into the existing organizational culture and context. This understanding is crucial for framing new initiatives in a way that resonates with the organization’s existing values, norms, and expectations. When leaders understand how their employees perceive and interpret their environment, they can craft messages and strategies more likely to be accepted and embraced.

Mastering the Art of Corporate Shape-Shifting

John Kuzava once put it perfectly when he compared the process of sensemaking to spotting a disruptive ‘Bulldozer’ through a keyhole. It’s creeping up, nearly ready to crush you, and suddenly, your only focus is how to dodge it. This is what Dave Snowden refers to as the ‘Chaotic’ domain in his Cynefin framework—where it’s all about quick action over sweating the small stuff.

Interestingly, CEOs aren’t just there to manage daily operations; they’re essentially paid to predict the future, a key element of sensemaking. John’s neighbor and mentor, Jeff DeGraff, always says, “There’s no data on the future.” He’s right—there isn’t. So, CEOs are less about making predictions and more about seeing around corners.

Their focus is on two types of information: external and internal. It’s about balancing the influx of new data with what John calls ‘cultural metabolism’—how a company absorbs and reacts to information. This balance is crucial for effective sensemaking in any business.

Change doesn’t knock politely—it bulldozes through your front door. Sensemaking is the crystal ball that predicts these invasions and turns your reflexes ninja-like. With it, strategies morph and tactics shift with the elegance of a ballet dancer and the precision of a sniper, keeping organizations as spry as cats on a hot tin roof.

Practical change leaders use sensemaking to frame new ideas and changes that align with the organizational culture. This involves using language, symbols, and narratives that connect the change to the organization’s identity and mission. By framing change in familiar terms, leaders can reduce resistance and increase the perceived relevance and necessity of the change.

Clearing the Fog of War

John has spent years leading change initiatives, and he’s found that grasping ‘Cultural Metabolism’ is a real challenge. He points out that CEOs often act as if they have a crystal ball, leaving managers to just carry out their orders. This leads to the oft-repeated saying, “Don’t worry, this too shall pass,” especially in companies where decades of change have barely made a dent.

John emphasizes the importance of finding new ways to ‘see around corners.’ Using co-created techniques can unearth ‘Metabolic insights,’ shedding light on what’s usually hidden.

Take the threats we face: some are immediate and explosive, like a meteor strike, while others creep up on us, like a game board slowly tilting until everything tumbles off. The automotive industry’s slow pivot to electrification is a perfect example. Despite consumer interest and available technology, it took ages for the industry to shift. Tesla jumped on this opportunity early, unlike smaller companies like ‘Think’ from Norway, which ended up as mere footnotes. Success often comes down to spotting what others miss.

John also talks about how cultural biases act like blind spots. Imagine insisting there are no orange trees in Ann Arbor—if you’re convinced they don’t exist, you’ll never spot them, even if they’re right under your nose. This is akin to the ‘Golem effect,’ where low expectations result in poor outcomes, and the opposite of the ‘Pygmalion effect,’ where high expectations lead to better results. He underscores the need to challenge our assumptions to improve our sensemaking abilities.

When change rolls in like a thick fog, decision-making becomes a guessing game at a masquerade ball—everyone’s blindfolded. Sensemaking slices through the mist, letting leaders and teams stitch together scraps of intel to spot patterns and plot courses that steer the ship away from icebergs and into clear waters.

Sensemaking facilitates the creation of a shared understanding of why change is necessary. Through continuous dialogue and interaction, leaders can help team members see the “big picture” and understand their roles. This shared understanding is vital for fostering commitment and collaboration.

Igniting the Flames of Rebellion

At its heart, sensemaking isn’t just about playing it safe; it’s about sparking the fires of revolution. It’s a call to arms to challenge the stale doctrines, to question every “because we’ve always done it this way,” and to dream fiercely. This isn’t just change; it’s an uprising, crafting pioneers out of the status quo’s ashes.

Sensemaking empowers employees by involving them in the change process. When individuals contribute to interpreting and implementing changes, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility toward the outcomes. This participatory approach enriches the sensemaking process with multiple perspectives and enhances buy-in and support across the organization.

Seeding the Fields of Knowledge—Iterative Learning and Adaptation

A learning culture isn’t just excellent; it’s the soil in which change flourishes. Sensemaking fertilizes this ground, turning every upheaval into a harvest of insights. Organizations that master this don’t just survive change—they thrive on it, weaving lessons learned into their strategic tapestry.

Sensemaking isn’t a one-time activity but a continuous process. As new information emerges and situations evolve, sensemaking helps organizations learn and adapt. This flexibility is critical in refining change initiatives to suit organizational needs better and react effectively to any unanticipated consequences or feedback.

Forging the Alliances of Tomorrow—Inspirational Leadership

True sensemaking demands more than solitary genius—it requires a coalition of the willing. It’s about melting the silos to forge alliances, transforming a cacophony of voices into a chorus that sings in harmony. Communication isn’t just about transmission; it’s about transformation, fostering trust and teamwork that turn groups into legions.

Leaders who excel in sensemaking inspire their teams by communicating a compelling vision for the future. By making sense of the change in a way that highlights benefits and positive outcomes, leaders can motivate and energize their teams to move forward with enthusiasm and confidence.

From Corporate Chaos to Cool: How to Hack the Hierarchy with Sensemaking Mastery!

Ready to become a sensemaking shaman? Join us as we turn organizational anarchy into a well-oiled machine of innovation and resilience. In the corporate jungle, it’s not the strongest who survive (nor the click, copy, and past) but the most adaptable—and who says you can’t have a little fun while you’re at it?

Ditch the Playbook: How Urban Sensemaking Mavericks Are Rewriting the Rules of Organizational Change!

In the pulsating heart of a tried-and-true tech company, a revolution brews, not in the secret confines of a boardroom but in the open, vibrant sprawl of a workspace bathed in neon lights and the hum of unbridled innovation. This isn’t your grandfather’s office. Here, a band of urban sensemaking mavericks—visionaries and rebels alike—has emerged as the new vanguard of transformation, challenging the stale norms of organizational change.

Picture this: a place where the drudgery of compliance is swapped for the electric buzz of co-creation, where sensemaking transcends being a mere corporate buzzword to become the lifeblood of change enablement. Every individual, from the visionary CEO to the enthusiastic new intern, dives deep into the why and how of change initiatives. Together, they craft a compelling narrative that could rival the latest viral saga, turning their workspace into a live canvas where ideas flourish like street art on previously blank urban walls.

Their mission? To redefine the essence of organizational change. As the market heaves with relentless shifts and internal dynamics churn, this collective navigate these tumultuous seas using sensemaking as their compass. They transform potential turmoil into a dance of opportunity, moving with the grace and agility of street performers and skateboarders, seamlessly making swift pivots and recalibrating strategies.

Decision-making here is an art form—crafted with the precision of a graffiti artist who turns a vast, empty wall into a vibrant masterpiece. Amidst the fog of uncertainty, these change agents light the way forward, piecing together fragmented information to forge a clear path.

Innovation is not just encouraged; it’s expected. Questioning the status quo, these mavericks push the boundaries of what’s possible, seeding ideas that pave the way for a future that others can only imagine. They don’t just adapt to change; they anticipate and lead it, dreaming boldly and fearlessly.

Let’s not overlook the rich culture of continuous learning that permeates this space—a bustling bazaar of thoughts and theories where failure is celebrated as a precursor to mastery, and every setback is a lesson eagerly devoured.

Collaboration is the underlying melody here, weaving diverse perspectives into a symphony of concerted action. Communication flows, trust is the reigning currency, and teamwork is the rhythm that propels them forward. Together, they don’t just work in the organization but reimagine it daily.

For these urban sensemaking mavericks, the change management playbook has been discarded in favor of a dynamic, co-creative approach. The old guard of change management might still be clinging to their manuals on the sidelines, but they’re merely spectators to a game that has changed fundamentally. This movement isn’t just about navigating change; it’s about embracing it with arms wide open, spray cans and microphones in hand, ready to paint the future in bold strokes of innovation, collaboration, and transformation.

Welcome to the revolution. Ready to make your mark?