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    How do leaders, in a multiple leader context, give sense to the same strategic change?

    Anderson, Karl St John (2015) How do leaders, in a multiple leader context, give sense to the same strategic change? PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    For organisational leaders, managing change is a primary management activity (By, 2005). Reflecting this significance as a management function, there is now a substantial body of literature and many dynamic models and ‘recipes’ advising managers how to deal with change. While models and recipes abound, there is little research that examines the micro processes at work when leaders engage in organisational change initiatives. This study directly addressed that gap. Utilising novel methods, it digs deep into one vital aspect of organisational change; that is how leaders give sense to strategic change. The study is set in a multi-leader context where leaders compete to give sense to the same change. Theoretically, the investigation is grounded in sensegiving (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991) which is recognised as an effective lens for the investigation of leadership behaviour during change. The sensegiving literature is rich in describing what leaders do when they attempt to give sense, but this still evolving field holds many gaps in our understanding of how leaders go about giving sense. This study presents a unique contribution to address the imbalance and offers advancements in sensegiving theory, method, and practice. The study adopts a critical realist stance (Bhaskar, 1979) which facilitates the examination of underlying tendencies of generative mechanisms at play during leader sensegiving. It uses a case study (Eisenhardt, 1989) approach to conduct an inductive and retroductive qualitative data analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994) of naturally occurring data. Moving beyond traditional framing analysis the study draws on argument theory (Toulmin, 1958) and extends this to incorporate the structure of Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals. In doing so it allows for an in-depth micro level analysis that unpacks the sensegiving behaviour of leaders and exposes the generative mechanisms in a multi-leader context as they attempt to give sense to the same strategic change. This is an innovative approach in this field and its novelty has yielded dividends. The study makes five important contributions. 1. It demonstrates the potential for advancement of knowledge through the adoption of a critical realist stance to sensegiving research. 2. It presents a unique research method to unpack multiple leader sensegiving and moves beyond the repetition associated with framing analysis. 3. It identifies how proponents and opponents of the same strategic change use different argument and rhetorical strategies when attempting to give sense. 4. It presents an original theoretical model which conceptualises sense, not as a cognition that is given as the name suggests, but a cognition that emerges from episodes of meaning giving to environmental cues, sense creation for common sensegiving targets and articulation. 5. It identifies that these processes are underpinned by patterns of behaviour which can, because they can be exercised differently by proponents and opponents, create a myriad of meaning and sense creation possibilities. For the academic community these findings contribute to both method and theory. For leaders of organisational change it provides a useful model to enable them identify how their sensegiving attempts, and those of their opponents, are constructed thus enabling the design and implementation of more effective change strategies.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: sensegiving; sensemaking; leaders; multiple leader context; strategic change;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Business
    Item ID: 6427
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2015 16:27
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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