Sensemaking and Sensegiving: A Concept for Successful Change Management that Brings Together Moral Foundations Theory and the Ordonomic Approach
Forthcoming, Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change, 2018, Vol. 14, No. 3
31 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 10, 2017
Change management projects typically fail because they meet employee resistance created by emo-tional sensemaking processes. In this article, we present:
(a) an in-depth explanation for these failures and,
(b) how change managers could avoid them.
Our argument is presented in the following three steps. We begin with the empirically well-established fact that attempts at change management often trigger negative emotional responses. We then draw on Moral Foundations Theory to identify the typical categories of emotional responses that may result in resistance to organizational change. Finally, we build on the ordonomic approach to business ethics in order to substantiate the diagnosis that, in many cases, emotional responses cause employees to behave in a way that is collectively self-damaging. The core idea of our contribution is that emotionally-driven processes of sensemaking can easily become dysfunctional, especially in situations that require extensive change.
Consequently, it should be a top priority for managers to engage in sensegiving, which comprises:
(a) narratives that explain what is going on against the background of relevant alternatives, and
(b) appropriate discourses that guide how employees form their expectations.
In a nutshell, sensegiving attempts to reframe sensemaking processes.
Keywords: Organizational Change, Sensemaking, Sensegiving, Resistance, Emotions, Moral Foundations Theory, Ordonomics
JEL Classification: D21, D23, L10, L20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation