A Temporal Narrative View of Sensemaking

Tor Hernes*, David Obstfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper contributes a narrative dimension for the temporality of organizational sensemaking. Reconciling sensemaking with a broader understanding of time not only provides a more in-depth treatment of time in sensemaking. It also helps overcome existing dichotomies in temporal theorizing to advance a more dynamic temporal theorizing in organizational research. To extend a temporal understanding of sensemaking, we discuss Ricoeur’s theory of narrative and time in light of his prefigurative, configurative, and refigurative modes of time. We then suggest ways that this framework illuminates how three corresponding temporal modes of sensemaking connect through time, drawing on Weick’s analysis of the Mann Gulch disaster to illustrate the framework. Finally, we discuss how the recursive features of our framework enable understanding of the situated dynamics by which actors move through time, thus contributing a way to deal with the “stationarity problem” of temporal theorizing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Theory
Issue number4 (October-December)
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Configurative sensemaking
  • Emplotment
  • Invisible time
  • Narrative theory
  • Prefigurative sensemaking
  • Refigurative sensemaking
  • Ricoeur
  • Sensemaking
  • Time

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