When realities collide
: An analysis of the elements of sensemaking that promote and inhibit change of organisational leader mindsets

  • Ronald H. S. Skea

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The aims of this research are to identify the elements of leader sensemaking which both promote and hinder mindset change. I Use a qualitative, ethnographic active participant research approach in three organisations and semi-structured interviews with leaders from other organisations. My research identifies the inter-related elements of leader sensemaking of an organisational change methodology which is influenced in its approach by postmodern thinking and which challenges current mindsets about leadership and organisation. By identifying and establishing the interrelationship between nine key elements of leader sensemaking my research provides academics and practitioners with a basis for facilitating leader mindset change. I also identify further research opportunities around issues of sustaining individual mindset change and embedding this in organisational culture, which I have identified as a result of my research.

    Nine key elements of sensemaking are identified and used to understand the sensemaking process of leaders. I identify the relationship between the elements and the impact they can have in both promoting and inhibiting mindset change. My research finds that current leader thinking about organisations, leadership and organisational change is largely modernist in perspective. When presented with a methodology that is influenced by a postmodern perspective all the elements shape and influence the sense the leaders make of the challenge to their mindset and their decision on whether or not to engage with the methodology. These elements are inter-related, each is essential but insufficient in isolation, and each influences, and is influenced by, all the others. My research explores the relationship between the sensemaking elements in a range of practical organisational settings. In so doing it provides insight into how those wishing to influence the mindsets of others can understand and recognise the dynamic of sensemaking, whilst highlighting that changing leader mindsets is not something that has easy ‘how to’ answers or which can be achieved by following simplistic cause and effect step models that are prevalent in the current literature which many practitioners are familiar with.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAnne Fearfull (Supervisor) & Alison Fordyce (Supervisor)


    • Leaders
    • Change
    • Postmodern
    • Sensemaking
    • Qualitative
    • Ethnography
    • Organisation
    • Transformational leadership
    • Preunderstanding
    • Storytelling
    • Cognitive dissonance

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