Making sense of sense making – managing change In organizational context, sense-making signifies the process of social construction in which organizational members interpret and explain cues from the environment by interacting with others to create accounts that help them in comprehending the world and act as a group (OConnell & Mills, 2003). A pharmaceutical company faces increased amalgamation and acquisition in the pharmaceutical industry and failure to introduce smash hit drugs. In order to preserve its market share and leadership, they have announced an organizational performance model, the crux of which is: reduction to main competencies, outsourcing non-core activities, developing versatility amongst workforce.
The plan is met with resistance from the workforce since reduction and outsourcing will result in redundancies; moreover, the workers are skeptical about re-training. Management has decided to follow the eight element analytical framework of organizational sense-making presented by Helms Mills (People & Performance Solutions, 2010). Identity construction: How people perceive themselves in a given context influences their enactments and how they translate events. In this instance, affected workers will view themselves as victims and see the company as an avaricious corporate unit so management should work closely with workers to change this image. Social sense-making: Sense-making is a function of both, human perception and social interaction thus the behavior of an individual is contingent on his social interactions with others.
Employees tend to concentrate on cues received from their colleagues and leaders. In this instance disruption will accelerate amongst workforce as redundancy and retraining plans will be shared through informal channels. Managers should not try to sweep issues under the carpet; they should relate the organizational change to the survival of the entity; demonstrate the benefits and involve workers in retraining schemes; work co-operatively with the trade union for agreement over redundancy benefits. Extracted cues: They help in developing a relation amongst various elements to gain knowledge of the wider context for individuals to make sense out of what is occurring.
Cues can be verbal and non-verbal; therefore, workers will extract cues from not only the announcement of downsizing but also the attitude of management towards them. Management should not only use ‘red-tape’ but also the grapevine in an organization to send out positive messages and signs, indicating that downsizing is not a choice but necessity for the survival of the organization. Ongoing sense-making: Sense making is an unending process since naturally as humans we are always making sense out of something.
However, shocks disrupt the normal sense-making process and instead instigate emotion-charged sense-making. It can be seen as feedback as it indicated to an individual his position in the eyes of others and the correctness of their account of the world. Redundancy n retraining schemes will alarm employees and serve as shockers, leading to emotion-based sense-making.
Retrospection: Retrospection is greatly impacted by not only past but current events; we always make sense after taking an action. Managers and supervisors control how organization heads towards a change. It is most likely that top management and managers who are closer to workers differ in thinking as top management often fails to take into account the bearing a decision on others. If policies of downsizing and redundancy continue over the longer term, then managers and workforce will believe that the entity deems as nothing more as machines.
Plausibility: Decisions in most instances are taken on the basis of incomplete, inaccurate or conflicting information but since it feels right so people act on it. The management should present a plausible story based on survival and trend toward amalgamation and acquisition in the industry to bring about organizational change. Enactment: Through creating sharing and creating accounts, people understand their thoughts, organize experiences and are able to forecast events. Usually, sense-making of those in key management positions is enacted in the organizational culture.
As owners and directors think that organizational change would bring success so their values and beliefs will be highlighted by the changes. Projection: It reflects the state after a variable has changed. The management should not deceive or give a misleading picture but project a fair picture of the after effects of the changes in the organization, Management can greatly impact social sense-making, extracted cues, plausibility, enactment and projection; both formal and informal channels can be used to spread plausible stories within the social spheres of the workforce to control the cues they read and minimize resistance (Helms & Mills, 2000).
However, workers will construct images based on previous record of the entity as sense-making is an ongoing process and no matter how much they try justifying downsizing, it will still be unacceptable so management cant greatly manipulate identity construction, retrospection and ongoing. References Helms, M.J. & Mills, A.J. , 2000. Sensemaking and the Gendering of Organizational Culture. In Wicks, D., ed. Proceedings of the Women in Management Division of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, Annual Conference. Montreal, 2000. OConnell, C.J. & Mills, A.J. , 2003.
Making Sense of Bad News: The Media, Sensemaking, and Organizational Crisis. Canadian Journal of Communication, 28(3). People & Performance Solutions, 2010. People & Performance Solutions™ and a Pharmaceutical Company Team to Integrate Organizational Change Capability. Investigation. New York: People & Performance Solutions.