Digital Garden of Paul

Using sensemaking changes assumptions provided by literature

Balogun introduced a sensemaking framework to be used during change initiatives in her paper in 2006. Her findings directly balances assumptions on change compared from existing practitioner literature up to that period.

Assumptions from practitioner literatureAssumptions from the research
Change can be controlled by senior managers in a top-down fashion. Practice falls out of senior manager policy as people adopt well-crafted and communicated plans. Monitoring of change by ticking activities off Gantt charts.Senior managers can initiate and influence direction of change, but not direct change. Practice is determined by interpretation of plans and actions by those on receiving end of planned interventions.
Vertical, formal communication from senior managers to others seen as key forum for creating understanding of change.Lateral and informal communication between peers primary vehicle for developing interpretations of what change is about.
Communication primarily construed of in terms of formal verbal and written channels. Seen as the transmission of information.Communication seen to be about both conversational and social practices (actions, behaviours, words), and to include formal and informal mechanisms such as rumours, storytelling, gossip, discussions. Communication more to do with generating new knowledge and shared meanings.
Managing Meaning: Where need for symbolic as well as verbal and written communications is recognised, managing meaning is taken to be about the use of series of related senior manager top-down interventions to shape individual’s interpretations.Aligning interpretations: a two-way process of sharing and developing interpretations through many different communication genres.
Change ‘‘recipients’’ and change implementers are there to accurately deploy and disseminate senior manager plansChange recipients actively translate and edit plans to create change


Balogun, J. (2006). Managing Change: Steering a Course between Intended Strategies and Unanticipated Outcomes. Long Range Planning, 39(1), 29–49.

Using sensemaking changes assumptions provided by literature