Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

Towards a Measurable Construct of Sensemaking in Organizations

Kym Cowley, Ranjit Voola.

Researchers have developed a number of models to describe various ways managers and organizations deal with potentially significant information. One model that has been proposed revolves around the sensemaking concept. Sensemaking involves the reciprocal interaction of information seeking, meaning ascription and subsequent action. This paper asserts that some firms are more successful at sensemaking than others. Those firms that are successful sensemaking organizations will possess superior information processing capabilities that enable them to sense and make sense of often ambiguous environmental signals, and then to implement strategic responses in a timely fashion. In this way, successful sensemaking generates knowledge that enables organizations to act. And organizational action in turn generates further knowledge that explains and stabilizes the organization’s environment. Higher levels of successful sensemaking capabilities therefore should result in higher performance outcomes for the organization. However, sensemaking is made up of interactions and cognitions by actors within the organization, making it a complex process and consequently, more difficult to measure and operationalize . Sensemaking, as it is currently conceptualized, does not lend itself appropriately to measurement within organisations. This study makes an intial step towards operationalizing the sensmaking construct, by observing the managerial manifestations of sensemaking processes in organizations. Through a process of in depth interviews with key informants in twelve organizations, both large and small, sensemaking is hypothesized to consist of three dimensions; organizational identity, organizational memory and socio-informational architecture. It is further proposed that these three variables are composed of multiple factors.


Kym Cowley  (Australia)
Lecturer in Marketing
Newcastle Business School
University of Newcastle

Ms. Cowley is a Lecturer in Marketing at Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, Australia. She is currently completing a PhD in ‘Market Knowledge Generation in Australian Firms’ and researches in the areas of market orientation, organizational learning and knowing, and sensemaking in organisations. She also is an active consultant to government and industry in the areas of marketing strategy and sensemaking systems in organizations.

Ranjit Voola  (Australia)
Doctoral Candidate
Newcastle Graduate School of Business
The University of Newcastle

Ranjit Voola is a Doctoral Candidate in Management at the Newcastle Graduate School of Business, University of Newcastle, Australia. His research interests include Resource Based View of the Firm, E-Business Strategy, Leadership, Strategic Change, Non-Profit Marketing and International Marketing.

  • sensemaking capabilities, knowledge generation, operationalize

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)