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A sensemaking perspective on rigour, relevance and organizational change

Research Cluster

Speaker:Dr Ian Colville , School of Management, University of Bath
Date: Tuesday 19 February 2008
Time: 16:00
Location: Conference Room 2, Xfi

Further details

The questions academic management ask are increasingly hedged by issues to do with whether our research matters. Hambrick, when president of the AOM (1994), suggested that outside an ‘incestuous academic loop’, it didn’t and the current edition of AMJ and the call for papers to AoM 2008, suggest that not much has changed. This presentation argues that academic management must matter and must be relevant to the wider world in which it exists or that world will start asking questions as to the purpose of the discipline(s). It is difficult, however, to achieve practical relevance along with theoretical rigour. Pettigrew (1997) calls this the double- hurdle, and the tendency is to achieve one at the expense of the other. Rigour is achieved by academics who bemoan the fact that managers see the results as so much complex ‘claptrap’; on the other hand, relevance is achieved by practitioners, including management consultants , who are seen by academe as purveying so much simplistic ‘claptrap’.

It is against this background that this presentation risks leaving a metaphorical trailing leg and falling flat on its audience. Sensemaking, as a perspective (Weick, 1995) is here made to serve as both topic and resource. As resource it is used to examine, via a brief case study, how the CEO of a private London bank attempted to lead and manage the meaning of change by engaging in ‘sensegiving’, and how this relates to a process view of change (Tsoukas & Chia,2002). As a topic sensemaking is employed to argue that ‘speaking differently’ and ‘speaking claptrap’ may be a means of approaching the puissance of the double- hurdle.