Future‐oriented Sensemaking: Temporalities and Institutional Legitimation

Robert P. Gephart, Cagri Topal and Zhen Zhang

in Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594566
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595721 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives on Process Organization

Future‐oriented Sensemaking: Temporalities and Institutional Legitimation

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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

Chapter.  13369 words. 

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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