Supporting Sensemaking to Deal with Organizational Complexity

Supporting Sensemaking to Deal with Organizational Complexity

S. Jantunen 

Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland

31 January 2016
| Citation



Many organizations have in recent years experienced increased inadequacy of their management practices to deal with their complex and turbulent work-related challenges. Failing to recognize the complexity in their problems, organizations have persisted in applying inappropriate methods and tools to them. When the workrelated problems are ambiguous, complex, and constrained, business processes tuned for decision-making have begun to degrade providing a false sense of security based on unjustified numerical certainty. Examining these challenges in the light of complexity theory could potentially help organizations to deal with their challenges in a more effective way. For understanding complex and ambiguous issues, people must interact, discuss, and share their different perspectives and interpretations. Existing literature recognizes sensemaking as one way for group members to understand and talk about complexity. Unfortunately, little has yet been reported on exactly how the properties of sensemaking can be materialized in practice. This paper discusses sensemaking as a potential framework to deal with complexity. The paper (1) describes on a practical level interventions taken in one case company to support sensemaking, (2) illustrates the creation of different plausible interpretations of what essentially describes the case company’s current environment, (3) describes how the creation of shared understanding is currently being shaped into a commitment towards action, and (4) reflects the findings and experiences with the existing knowledge on complexity and sensemaking.


business processes, complexity, sensemaking.


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