Archive for the ‘Sensemaking’ Category

Strategic management accounting and sense-making in a multinational company (Tillmann & Goddard, 2008)

Mittwoch, September 17th, 2008

 Strategic management accounting and sense-making in a multinational company

Tillmann, Katja; Goddard, Andrew: Strategic management accounting and sense-making in a multinational company; in: Management Accounting Research, Vol. 19 (2008), No. 1, pp. 80-102.

Tillmann & Goddard analyse in a large German multi-national corporation how strategic management accounting is used and perceived. This is interesting as insofar they explore how managers work and get decisions made. The authors follow an open systems paradigm, which conceptualises the organisation as a set of ambiguous processes, structures, and environments. In such the manager is operating. Furthermore Tillmann & Goddard identify 4 major typically managerial activities (1) Scanning, (2) Sense-Making, (3) Sense-Giving, and (4) Decision-Making.

Sense-Making is of key interest to the authors. Sense-Making can be understood as constructing and re-constructing meaning, or simply as understanding the situation and getting the picture. Understanding is inherently linked to interpretations of real world events. In order to make-sense of events, simplification strategies are employed, such as translating, modelling, synthesis, and conceptualising/frameworking.

Moreover the authors propose a 3 step process model of sense-making.

  • Input – internal context, multiplicity of aspects, and external context which are individually internalised as information sets and ‚a feel for the game‘
  • Sense-Making – structuring & harmonising, compromising & balancing, and bridging & contextualising
  • Output – sense communication and decision-making

A memetic paradigm of project management (Whitty, 2005)

Montag, August 11th, 2008

Memetic approach to project management

Whitty, Stephen Jonathan: A memetic paradigm of project management; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 23 (2005), No. 8, pp. 575-583.

I am quite fascinated by Richard Dawkin’s ideas and among them the Meme (cultural analogy to Darwin’s genes) is quite an old and a bit controversial one. When I studied Knowledge Management at university a meme was an abstract unit of information which we tried to store meaningfully in some über-cool XML data bases and after a while we might have been able to even find it again, then we retrieved it, and gave it to someone knowledge-worker to think about and to put it in use thus creating knowledge. According to Memetics this process is equivalent to sex in the animal kingdom.

Whitty reflects on project management as a memeplex. He illustrates what that means for  project management in 6 areas (1) project management, (2) bodies of knowledge, (3) project managers/teams, (4) the profession, (5) knowledge creation, and (6) project organisation. In a memetic sense project management is absolutely self-serving and evolves for its own good without serving a higher purpose.
Secondly the project management meme (aka PMBOK) evolves to increase the maximum number of projects and is not a conscious expert design, thus it favours fuzzy definitions and positivist ideas over hard, falsifiable facts.
Thirdly project managers are just a meme created by memes of project management [sounds esoteric but holds some truth, it’s a little like Russell’s chicken] and not some consciously crafted tactics to implement a strategy.
Fourthly the profession of project management is not consciously constructed and skilfully designed but evolved mainly to spread project management memes.
Fifthly knowledge is not created by a social systems (think academia and practitioners) but knowledge processes = memes construct social systems which in turn spread new project management memes.
Lastly project organisations are not human constructs but creations to replicate behaviours of project management memes. [I wrote earlier about Structuration and that according to to this theory: „Repetitions of acts of individual agents reproduce the structure“ – I guess it is time for Occam’s razor.]

Whitty concludes with two recommendations for research practice (1) benchmark ideas and develop best practices, thus spreading project management memes more quickly, and (2) unify the bodies of knowledge letting only the fittest memes survive.

Frames and inscriptions: tracing a way to understand IT-dependent change projects (Linderoth & Pellegrino, 2005)

Montag, Juli 14th, 2008


Linderoth, Henrik C.; Pellegrino, Giuseppina: Frames and inscriptions – tracing a way to understand IT-dependent change projects; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 23 (2005), No. 5, pp. 415-420.

Linderoth & Pellegrino analyse sense-making in organizational transitions which are driven by IT projects. Sense-making of a new technology, they argue, happens on an individual level at the user and can not be dictated by some higher authority. The authors use two approaches to analyse how individuals make sense of new technology and how the sense shifts over time. The Actor-Network-Theory and Theory of Social Construction of Technology.

Actor-network theory (ANT) explains processes by which ideas are accepted, tools and methods adopted. There are two major methodologies on how to explore these network processes. One is following the actor (mostly by interviews, observation) and the other one is to analyse inscriptions. Inscriptions are artefacts of knowledge created by the actors. Linderoth & Pellegrino follow this second approach and they define the inscription as „desired program of action or pattern of use that someone inscribes into a medium as artefact.“ They find, that for IT most users are inflexible in how to use the technology, but users are highly flexible when and in which situation to use the technology.

Social Construction of Technology explains the counter party in this process – the user. Linderoth & Pellegrino define Technological frames as „outcome of organisation’s member interaction and sense-making of technology“. Furthermore they introduce the notion of dynamic shifts of these frames over time. [Thus adopting a more post-structuralist view on Social Constructivism].
Furthermore they use Social Construction of Technology to outline the 3 key points users engage in sense-making about; (1) the nature of the technology, (2) the strategy of the technology, and (3) the use of the technology. All three frames need a reasonable inter-connection. Furthermore Linderoth & Pellegrino argue that discrepancies between frames of different user groups lead to project failures.

Looking at the dynamics of frames the authors identified one dominating element in each project life stage.

  • Project start-up: Nature, Strategy, Use
  • Project in action: Nature, Strategy, Use
  • Project re-birth: Nature, Strategy, Use

Moreover Linderoth & Pellegrino show that a following the importance of context in building frames. [Thus following the ideas of the learning theory of Constructivism] They show that the sense-making processes to create the frames shift from a global discourse to a local discourse; and thus from a global context to a local context.