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Weick Determines The Sensemaking In Organizations Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 3770 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Sensemaking is an ongoing process, it cannot be stopped because its never started. We can do it on the purpose or unconsciously. This process is focused on and by extracted cues. So when we choose some stimuli, for example in school I heard the sound of a bell during my first day in high school. In order to understand this stimuli, I will try to make sense by extracting and interpreting cues from my stream of experiences. I have already heart this sound before so my mind take attention of it. This action to extract cues is called bracketing by Weick, you isolate cues and put meaning so you focus your attention on certain experience.

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Then, I try to put extracted cues in my own frame of reference which contain every experience I tried out before. Actually, cues extracted and interpreted develop the frame of reference in relation to my old experiences. In my example, in my frame, I can make sense of this sound. During my studies in primary school, I used to heard the same bell which meant it was time to go to class. This last action is referred to the retrospective characteristics of sensemaking. According to Weick, we can only know what we are doing after we have done experienced it: “How can we know what we thing until I see what we see”. So, when I heard the sound of the bell, I could use my frames of reference and realized what could happen in the future which is : go to class.

Several things are important to notice before going on. The first point I would like to underline is that we extract cue by being influenced by the context of the situation. In my example, I was at school when I heard this sound, but if I heard it in my garden, I won’t be able to make sense of the bell or to interpret it. So context and frame of reference influence what will be noticed as a cue. Furthermore, Weick explains: “depending on who am I, my definition of what is “out there” will also change”. Always through my example, if I was in my garden when I heard this sound, I wouldn’t extract the cue from the college because the context was not the same. So context and frame of reference also affect how the cue is interpreted. “The choice of “the stimulus affects the choice of what the action “means”. And both choices are heavily influenced by the situational context” (Weick)

The second point I would like to emphasize is that the identity of the sensemaker influences the sensemaking process. Our identity is dynamic, it means it changes through our experiences, interaction, education, encounters during our life, identity is in constant construction and redefinition. But it also can influence the sensemaking due to the fact that we can have several identities in the same time. So it will depends which part we use when we try to make sense so the sensemaking can be different.

Then I would like to emphasize the relation between the sensemaking and the environment. Weick uses the word “enactment” to explain that, in organizational structure, “people often produce part of the environment they face” (Pondy and Mitroff, 1979, p.17). Enactment is defined by the attention and the action. It means it exist a double relation between environment and organization: people create parts of the environment and contribute to it but in the same time, the environment leads their actions. Weick put in evidence one problem: people often blame the environment about the situation but they forget they are part of this environment. This idea is very well explained by Follett: “we are neither the master nor the slave of our environment”. This relation can also be linked with organization: should adapt their companies to the environment? It is a paradoxical question because organization are already part of this environment.

To sum up, I can say that you success to create meaning if you can make a relation between cues and frame. And be aware that sensemaking involves several condition needed to take in account and that sensemaking is in relation with the environment.

Question 2 :

Sensegiving means when someone try to influence others to adopt the sensegiver’s interpretation or reality through different communicative tools such as producing stories, using rhetoric, performing, embodying, and using roles or symbols. Leaders try to convince followers about their vision, goal or their realities.

But before trying to influence people, the leaders is first of all a sensemaker: tries to make sense of what is it happening.

In their article sensemaking and sensegiving in strategic change (1991), Gioia and Chittipeddi define

Nevertheless, leaders are not always successful to give direction, to create meaning in the organization or to give a sense of organization. In fact, leaders and followers can have different interpretations so create different meaning because people understand differently the situation, leader has one understanding but each followers can have another one. As I wrote in my previous essay, an Costarican proverb assert that : “every word has three definitions and three understanding”. People talk different language because they hold distinct values, beliefs, possess “different views in economic, management, politics” and they have different profession or level of hierarchy. So each person has a different frame of references. In order to explain in details this view, I would like to take one example in the company I used to work with. The company sells crepe maker, and the CEO had an idea with the marketing department: to launch a new crepe maker, not really different from the others but very well designed and very expensive to show the quality of the company. It was clear that in this situation marketing department and commercial department didn’t have the same frame of reference. For example, they didn’t have the same education, in marketing people come from design education whereas in commercial department we came from business education. So it was very hard for us, the commercial department to understand the point to sell a crepe maker which is just different by the design and cost 200€ more than the old model. We can see in this example how much is important to reduce the gap between leaders’ frame of reference and followers’ frame. Our commercial department was on the direct contact with customers to sell this new crepe maker so if we didn’t interpret or understand the meaning in the same way that the CEO or the marketing department, we didn’t be able to sell correctly the product so the company’s effectiveness was degraded. So to fixed this problem of lack of understanding, the CEO had to explain his meaning and defined clearly what was his vision several times.

To conclude, it is clear that sensegiving-sensemaking are part of the leaders functions, but it should be done very carefully because we cannot have a veritable impact on the followers without a well defined sensemaking. “If nobody could hear you, nobody will follow you; that is why management of meaning is necessary to lead effectively”. (Bennis and Nanus, 2004, p.137).

In their article Leadership in organizations (1982), Smirch and Morgan give a definition of leadership : “the process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal settings and goal achievement”.

Question 3 :

In theory, followers have been for a long time underestimated. But how can we speak about leadership without people who are supposed to follow the leader? In his article Leadership in organizations, Bryman gives us a definition of leadership written by Stogdill: “leadership may be considered as the process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal setting and goal achievement”. In this explanation, we can notice that he used the word group. I don’t take for granted this definition, what I want to underline is that in new leadership theory, authors are not ignoring followers anymore. Followers are a major part of the leadership, but what is their role in the construction of meaning ?

“Constructing the leadership relationship, empowering the leader and influencing his or her behavior, and ultimately determining the consequences of the leadership relationship” (Howell and Shamir, 2005:97). As we can understand through this sentence, it exist a relationship between leaders and followers which is interdependent. Leadership is a relational concept involving active “leaders” and “followers”. So as to understand their role in leadership as construction of meaning, it is necessary to remain two things. Leaders are involved in sensegiving and sensemaking: they make sense of what it is happening and try to influence the meaning of others. Followers are active sensemakers and sensegivers:

As I said before, the most difficult part being a leader is to give direction, to create meaning in an organization because followers don’t have the same frame of references and hold their own interpretation. So based on their own frame of references, the followers viewed as “sensemaker” will try to make sense of the experience bracketed by the leader and interpret it. The leader is view as the sensegiver so he tries to influence others by creating a point of reference or explain the goal. So in order to do that, the leader will extract cues and put off meaning on it, and try to direct the attention to a certain experience. In the same time the follower tries to make sense and to interpret what the leader tries to give as meaning, he also brackets others pieces of his experiences based on his own sensemaking. In the same idea, the leader is view as a sensemaker, it means he makes sense on experiences. The aim is to reduce the gap between leaders’ frame of reference and followers’ frame of reference. In fact, in organization the aim is “to work together”, to have the same vision or goal in order to intensify companies’ effectiveness. In this situation, the difficulty is that it exists a multiple meaning possible. So followers as sensemakers don’t need new information, they need “values, priorities, and clarity about preferences to help them be clear about which projects matter” which is the leaders’ function.

In the same thought, leadership is realized when one or more individuals succeeds in attempting to frame and define the reality of others. But how people can achieve this. Followers need to understand clearly the social group they are part of: values, beliefs, goal, vision, and so on. They will understand it through the leader’s function. This one is supposed to be an entrepreneur of meaning. He is a symbol for his followers, can have a good story to tell to motivate them or the ability to embody the group. Like this, followers can identify themselves to a group if they understand well what the leader wants to mean.

To conclude, I would like to use the controversial subject there were in France in 2006 about the First Employment Contract (CPE). It was a type of employment contract of indefinite duration for young people before 26 years (Article 8 of the law on equal opportunities) launched by the right party politics. This law raised a strong opposition from students in high school and in university, followed by trade unions and political parties of the left, arguing that the contract would ease unfair dismissal and precariousness. In order to show their displeasure, young people started strikes, didn’t go to school and walked on the street during several days. At the end, the government gave up his project so leaders, at this time was Jacques Chirac was influenced by the followers. In order to express their message, young people used symbol (logos, sign, speaking).

Question 4 :

One of the crucial function of a leader is to be able to make his followers understand what he wants to achieve, what his vision is, which goal he wants to reach. It is a difficult part because the frame of reference of the leader and followers is not the same, so people will understand and interpret cues differently. So it is important to be as clear as possible. That’s why a leader can use different kind of communication. According to Bennis and Nanus, the communication is one of the four strategy to be a good leader, in their book Leaders, they wrote “Success requires the capacity to relate a compelling image of a desired state of affairs-the kind of image that induces enthusiasm and commitment in others” (Bennis and Nanus, 2004, p.31). So to explain how a leader built his vision, I’ll go through each tool he can use as a communicative activity to express his experience he had bracked and put meaning on it.

The first communication tool a leader can use is by speaking which can be naming, with rhetoric or by telling stories.

Rhetoric can be used when a leader make a speech to enhance his speech. This theory is useful as much in organization as in private life because it provides a way to structure people’s speech and improve it. Like this, the leader through his speech can have more influence on people (audience) Rhetoric is defined by “… the art of using language so as to persuade or influence others; the body of rules to be observed by a speaker or writer in order that he may express himself with eloquence”.

By speaking, the leader can have a good story to tell to his followers. The most important things is to get people to act, to give them energy, something of memorable, fun. The story should give them a feeling and create a new way of making sense in order to get together all the people and put them in the same direction. The story should make sense for the audience. Gardner explains in his book Leading Minds, An anatomy of Leadership that “leaders exert their influence through the stories they tell and the ways they embody these stories” (Howard Gardner, 1995, p.155).

So the second way to communicate is by embodying. It is how the leader show he can be one example of his ideas or how he expresses it. He may use personal stories, or example of his personality to show to followers he is like them and get closer to them. For instance, Marshall conveyed through example to seek to inspire his followers. So basically, the aim by embodying is to be against this proverb “Do as I say, not as I do”, and to be really an example for the followers.

Performing is one way to communicate for a leader. This communicative tool can be uncertain and can be hard to use, but if it’s used in the right way it will be very effective. During our lecture, we saw an example with Microsoft’s CEO who arrived on the scene to make his speech and start to act and scream. According to my point of view, it was very clever and powerful, maybe my first action would be to laugh because I’d be surprised, but after I’d start to feel belonging to a group and maybe scream with him! But, doing that was at the same time very hazardous, because according to a student coming from Russia and another from China, this behavior is totally inappropriate.

Among tools’ communication, the leader can use rituals in the company. It could be by organizing celebration for birthday, meetings related to the tradition or the story of the organization. For example, in the last department I used to work, the director organized one meeting each month and for each birthday we had to bring a cake. It’s just a details but it permit to the employees to feel part of the company, to feel important, involved.

The last tools which prove that leadership is a multi communicative activity is by using symbols such as logos, structures and objects. It is the leaders’ property but it make sense to the followers to understand the company. In my previous company, each employee had the right to try company’s product whenever they wanted. It totally makes sense, each employee works on this products by selling or making so trying the product helped them to understand the sense of their work.

After defining all the tools the leaders can have access, we can say that the leadership is a “multi-communicative” activity. Nowadays, political, companies, managers use a lot communicative tools in order to make them known. Even individual people use this tools in their private life, to communicate with others.

Question 5 :

Frame of reference is a major part of the sensemaking.

“The more selves I have access to, the more meanings I should be able to extract and impose in any situation. Furthermore, the more selves I have access to, the less the likelihood that I will ever find myself surprised or astonished” (Weick, p.2 chapter.1)

On the other hand, frames of references can restricts our sensemaking.

Arguments :

But, most of the time, the created meaning we can received will reinforce our frame of reference. It’s like a vicious circle where you are stuck. We have already our frame of references and we are looking for perceive information that we know already, so some information appear more important and you make a selection of stimuli. That why we can say that frames of references will most often reinforce themselves, we put our attend of what we know already, so we expect some stimuli we can notice because we know them. It’s called the self reinforcing effects. During our lecture, we take for instance old people.

The created meaning will either reinforce or reform the frame of reference

The limiting effects of frames of references

Influence the flow and content of information by directing our perception

Limit the search for alternatives : some, we don’t think about it, we don’t think it could be an alternative, and some others we don’t know the existence.

Constrain expectations: expect certain things

Something unexpected happen so we try to make sense.

Directs labelling of experiences

The limiting effects of frames of references, II

Example : difficult to change for an old person

Same for an organization

Difficult to learn to a dog how to sit

Conclusion : Thinking outside of boundaries

• The importance of play and humour : metaphor, analogy, kids can learn us how to do

• There is not only one right answer!

• Be prepared to question existing rules!

• Avoid negative thinking and fear of failure!

Question 6 :

Why are we studying rhetorical theory? Rhetorical theory is relevant to become a manager but also in the private life. Actually, everyday in our life, we are facing a public audience which we try to convince about our ideas. So rhetoric help us to accomplish this and it is defined, by Aristotle like “an ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion” (year, p.14). According to Aristotle, there are three ways to persuade people through a speech: logos: the speaker is logical, present fact; pathos: the speaker try to provoke a feeling in the audience; ethos: the person try to be viewed as an example of morality and use her charisma to convince the audience. Miss a sentence to make the link with Hilary speech In order to analyze Hillary Clinton’s speech, I would use the “arrangement”, which is one of the 5 tasks in classical rhetoric.

Firstly, Hillary Clinton started with a short and direct introduction, people knew why she made her speech and why people were here. According to my point of view, she succeed to be humble and didn’t show any proof of arrogance, she seemed to be happy to be there: “my deep honor and pleasure at being here”.

The second step of arrangement is the statement of facts. To begin this part, Hillary Clinton communicated human rights’ backgrounds about how the declaration has been constructed. After reminded the past, she spoke about today and the fact that there are still an issue: some people are not respecting the human rights of LGBT citizens. So to demonstrate her point, she used illustrations, metaphors: “step by step” and five principal arguments. According to me, there are no specific delimitation in the text between the statement of fact, the opinion and the refutation which are part of the arrangement, so I will review each argument one by one.

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Her first ideas is that LGBT possess the same rights that others humans. In the two first paragraph Hillary Clinton explained her argument and idea, and in the last one she gave us some example using the repetition of “it is a violation of human being”. In my point of view, this last paragraph is more impressive or relevant for audience’s understanding. I guess it depends what is the audience, this speech was made in front of united nation organization, it means in front of people with important knowledge so the speech should be adapt to them. (idée pas très claire).

The second argument expressed by Hilary Clinton was to show that it doesn’t exist a part of the country where gay people are more susceptible to be. …

To conclude, I would like to say that this analyze is made through my sensemaking or my understanding of the speech. It means my interpretation is made through the cues I extracted and due to my own frame of reference, so the interpretation can be unfitted. I just started to learn Aristotle view one week ago, so the frame of my reference is limited. More, I am not so much interested in politics, so I don’t know the strategy they are using to influence people and I didn’t watch so much speech, or at least I watched but I didn’t look at the way they spoke or how the speech was constructed.

I am not credulous, Hilary Clinton didn’t make her speech just because she cared about lesbian, gay, she wanted to introduce a strategy of democrat party. This speech was made the same day that the day Obama announced a new plan to accept homosexuality as a foreign policy in the world (cf link internet).


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