Exploring middle managers sensemaking processes during the adoption and practice of sustainability strategies in organisations
The thesis explores middle managers sensemaking processes of a University’s social responsibility and sustainability (SRS) strategy during a period of change. Overall the thesis establishes links between middle managers simultaneous sensemaking processes, dynamics of loosely coupled organizational contexts and organizational responses to unexpected outcomes as they impact strategy creation processes in organisations. Three main issues evolve. Firstly, middle managers in loosely coupled organisations consist of two different sets (administrators and academics). Based on their nature of work in particular, administrators and academics select different sets of dominant and subtle sensemaking frames to make sense of organizational strategies. Generally, while administrators select sensemaking frames which emanate from existing strategic processes, academics select autonomous cues which exist outside strategic processes. Administrators and academics sensemaking processes are therefore not a single level or consecutive processes as typically researched, but rather occur as simultaneous sensemaking processes. Six dominant simultaneous sensemaking frames are identified and described. Secondly, the thesis examines less explored aspects of debates on loosely coupled systems. It investigates specific patterns of coupledness in middle managers strategic work and relationships. It identified and described patterns of administrative work which are tightly coupled and patterns in academic work which are loosely coupled. Thirdly, distinct links are identified between middle managers simultaneous sensemaking processes and unexpected strategy outcomes. This further led to exploring how organizations respond to unexpected sustainability initiatives, especially in light of integrating them into already existing strategy outcomes. Three integration strategies are identified and described.