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Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing$
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Tor Hernes and Sally Maitlis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594566

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594566.001.0001

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Future‐oriented Sensemaking: Temporalities and Institutional Legitimation

Future‐oriented Sensemaking: Temporalities and Institutional Legitimation

(p.275) 13 Future‐oriented Sensemaking: Temporalities and Institutional Legitimation
Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing

Robert P. Gephart

Cagri Topal

Zhen Zhang

Oxford University Press

Sensemaking is the process by which people construct, interpret, and recognize meaningful features of the world. Although retrospective sensemaking is a key property of the Weickian approach, sensemaking can also orient to the future. This chapter explores the social processes and practices of future‐oriented sensemaking to understand how it is accomplished, how it relates to other temporal dimensions, and how it legitimates institutions. To do so, we discuss five sensemaking perspectives relevant to temporality: Weickian sensemaking, post‐Weickian sensemaking, institutional rhetoric, agentivity, and ethnomethodology. We use the ideas in these perspectives as a means to conceptualize future-oriented sensemaking and to understand the potential influence that temporal modalities of sensemaking hold for legitimation. Next, we conduct an ethnomethodological investigation of future‐oriented sensemaking in a public hearing where future‐oriented sensemaking was a primary focus. Our investigation of inquiry discourse finds that the construction of plans, expertise, hypothetical entities, institutionalized sequences, and conventional histories are important practices in future‐oriented sensemaking that produce and sustain institutional legitimation.

Keywords:   sensemaking, temporal dimensions, projection, legitimization

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