The Importance of 'Sensemaking'
We all know that one of the major blockers to change comes from our resistance to accept a new way forward, we are conditioned to feel safe amongst the familiar. It is not always easy for others to see a vision as you do, and this can lead to uncertainty. Will the new way be profitable? Will it drive more sales? Will it make us more efficient? Will I lose my job? These are all reasonable questions to think and ask.
How can we expect our teams to feel safe if they are setting out on a journey without a map to guide their route or destination?
‘Sensemaking’ is a term introduced by Karl Weick, a professor from the University of Michigan. In essence it is a process of creating a ‘plausible plan’ that can aid understanding and answer the inevitable questions of Why? How? and What?
A ‘plausible plan’ should not be confused with a ‘definitive plan’, it will be created with the best of our knowledge at the time, a ‘plausible plan’ will always include an element of structuring the ‘unknown’.
Make Sense of Change
It is the responsibility of ‘EVERY LEADER’ to ‘MAKE SENSE OF CHANGE’ for a wider audience. That could include our teams, employees, customers, and suppliers. Sensemaking should be seen as a key leadership requirement and organisations should do more to train out this skill in order to facilitate successful change management.
It is not the responsibility, or even the capability of one leader to bring a feeling of security to a team. It is the collective skill of us all to provide a plausible, coherent, and balanced vision of the future, and to provide this in an ever-changing landscape. A map is not made from one road, we have lots of routes and possible alternatives, so if there happens to be a roadblock then we will have some idea of how to divert our path or even abandon our journey.
How Does Sensemaking Help?
When we come together to challenge our assumptions and work through the risks and values of our objectives we begin to facilitate a way to communicate, to exchange perspectives, innovations, data and understanding. We begin to map out a future landscape that will have a variety of scenarios.
The ability to vision out the future provides hope and confidence, it removes the element of mystery and provides us with a ‘route to action’. And if our route changes, it provides us with a base from which to shift our landscape.