Summary of contents

Table of Contents:

Part 1 outlines the concepts of leading, organising and sensemaking.

Chapters 1 and 2 summarise and give context to the concepts of leadership, organizational change and sensemaking. I explore how one can observe and interpret something so cognitive and deeply personal as sensemaking.

In Chapter 3 I set the context of sensemaking in organizations by presenting the key elements of the sensemaking stories of leaders from a range of organizations whom I interviewed prior to commencing my action centred research.

Part 2 explores the elements of leaders sensemaking which I observed in the research organizations in which I worked over a period of ten years.

In Chapters 4 to 12 I introduce each of the nine elements of sensemaking. I demonstrate the influence each element had in both helping and hindering leaders embrace a change of thinking and how individuals or interventionists might cope with the elements when engaging with leaders.

Part 3 revisits post-engagement sensemaking stories of leaders.

In Chapter 13 1 describe a fascinating meeting of global leaders from a large organization I was working with and which was specifically set up to allow a collective ‘making sense’ of their experiences during and immediately after engaging with a transformational change intervention. I will demonstrate how sensemaking is a dynamic and iterative process in which history is often collectively deconstructed and reconstructed in order to make for a better story.

Part 4 pulls together the findings of my research.

The final chapter pulls together the research findings and explains why rather than focussing on how to ‘manage’ change interventionists and leaders would be better starting with an understanding of sensemaking of change. There is no step-by-step guide or ‘do this and get that’ recipe for individual leaders or interventionists. Instead there is an understanding of the complexity and unpredictability of sensemaking which although it cannot be managed nevertheless can be influenced.

Summary of Conclusions

Nine key elements of sensemaking are identified and used to understand the sensemaking process of leaders. I identify the relationship between the elements and the impact they can have in both promoting and inhibiting mindset change. I don’t claim this to be an exhaustive list, but they are my interpretation of the elements at play as I observed leader sensemaking of transformational change initiatives over a 10-year period.

My research finds that the sensemaking elements are inter-related and each influences, and is influenced by, the others. My research explores the relationship between the sensemaking elements in practice in a range of organizational settings. In so doing it provides insights for leaders seeking self-development and for interventionists wishing to help others make sense of change. The book illustrates how the elements can be influenced to help create conditions for leaders to engage in reflexive practice in which they challenge their current mindsets. The book also demonstrates why changing leader mindsets is not something that has easy ‘how to’ recipes or that can be achieved by following simplistic step-by-step models that are prevalent in the current literature with which many practitioners are familiar.

Some of the elements I identify are existing concepts, but the disparate research has led to them being discussed as stand-alone constructs which obscures their important collective role in sensemaking. My research has synthesised a holistic understanding of these existing and new concepts and placed them into the context of leader sensemaking of organizational change.


Argyris, C. 2004. Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Part I

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