Middle Managers’ sensemaking of organizational change in a multinational corporation

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
The objective of this study is look into how middle managers make sense of an organizational change of standardizing a process that defines their work process. Sensemaking has been a popular approach in explaining the outcomes of organizational change initiatives and it is used for understanding how different organizational actors react, feel and understand, in other words, make sense of change. This study aims contribute to the research by examining sensemaking about change before change takes place. The focus is on middle managers’ sensemaking of moderate planned change that falls between incremental and radical change prior to the execution of it. It looks at middle managers’ initial reactions when they are informed about the change and exposed to senior management’s sensegiving. This is a qualitative study that uses a single case study method. The research was conducted in one multinational corporation in the IT outsourcing industry. The data was collected through five semi-structured interviews with five middle managers and it was supported by observational data. The focus of the study was narrowed down to one global team of middle managers in the business development department. The case company was planning to standardize the global team’s work processes by implementing a new process that defined it. Concerning the research gap, as the middle managers and their teams would have to adopt the new way of working, it was of interest to study how they made sense of the upcoming change. Based on the thematic data analysis, four sensemaking themes were identified as how middle managers make sense of change: 1) contrasting with the current situation, 2) personal dimension 3) participation, 4) reflecting upon expectations. Each theme has some individual characteristics, but they are also overlapping and interrelated, meaning that their details fit into more than one theme. As a result, from these four themes, three sensemaking types were derived: fully supportive, skeptically supportive and recognition without responsibility. These sensemaking types showed how the middle managers planned to take on or ignore the responsibility of executing the change in the future and their level of support towards the standardized process.
Thesis advisor
Junni, Paulina
sensemaking, sensegiving, organizational change, middle manager, process
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