Change through Sense-making

Change through Sense-making

To support transitions


  • To be able to answer the question "what makes sense at work?
  • To know the conditions of motivation and commitment of people, conditions which constitute levers of change.


The Sense-making model (Sense-making 1995) was developed from the work of Karl Weick, Professor of Organisational Science at the University of Michigan.

"Sensemaking, or "sense-making" or "sense construction", is the ongoing process by which individuals make sense of experience.  It has been defined as the retrospective and continuous development of plausible images that rationalise what people do", processes by which they attempt to rationalise the actions and situations they experience (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensemaking).

"Working in particular on crisis and disaster situations, Weick analyses the possibility of loss of reference points and the interactions that occur. It is in this context that the individual constructs meaning. He then concludes that the company's aim is not to provide meaning as such, but to offer the ecosystem, the common framework within which it will be possible for each individual to construct meaning. ( https://www.e-marketing.fr/Definitions-Glossaire/Sensemaking-theorie-243122.htm)

"Sensemaking is one of the key elements of organisational resilience: the ability of an organisation (company, association, project group, etc.) to face up to a test, incident or setback and overcome it despite adverse conditions. It is not a state, but a process. A company may show resilience in one incident, and not find resilience in another. (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensemaking)

To provide an operational answer to the question "What makes sense at work?", Autissier and Wacheux (2006) proposed a three-level model based on the work of Weick:

  • Workplace
  • Functional entity
  • Company / organisation as a whole

At each of these levels, individuals seek information, relationships, actions and experiences from which they will experience satisfaction.

It is a model of meaning at work in three levels as seen above and in nine items to be mobilised in change projects and/or in daily management. This model shows that meaning is created at several levels. This is not only the result of cultural and macro devices, but also of micro phenomena in everyday life.

The workstation is the first level of meaning creation. People look for elements of satisfaction and appreciation in the relationships with their colleagues, in the material conditions in which they carry out their activity and in the feasibility of this activity in relation to the resources allocated.

They propose a model of meaning at work in 9 items of interest to mobilise in change and transformation projects:


The involvement and commitment of teams and employees will be greatly increased if these 9 elements are met.


The sense-making barometer measures, the level of shared sense-making by administering a questionnaire to all employees or to a representative sample, the level of shared meaning in the form of a barometer.Responses are scored on a scale of 1 to 5.

1. Measure your own level of meaning at work and ask your colleagues to do the same. For each of the 9 items, give a score of 1 (most negative) to 5 (most positive).

Example of Sense-making Barometer Questions:


2. Calculate the Barometer score. Average the 9 items and you will get a sense-making evaluation on a scale of 1 to 5, corresponding to the following sense-making values:

  • Between 4 and 5 = Making sense : The company is doing something strong that creates meaning for employees.
  • Between 3 and 4 = Maintenance of meaning : The situation is not dynamic, but there is a shared and valued meaning in the company.
  • Between 2 and 3 = Interrogation of meaning : Employees question what their company is, their commitment and their involvement.
  • Between 1 and 2 = Destruction of meaning : The company is no longer able to give meaning to its employees and contributes to destroying the meaning that used to prevail.

3. Analyse and prepare an action plan to improve the meaning

Depending on the results of the sense-making barometer, improvement actions will be proposed within the framework of daily management and/or relayed by the change projects.

For each item with a score below 3, ask yourself the questions:

  • How can I improve or change things? At my level, at the entity level, at the company level?
  • When and where can I implement these changes? With whom?