Sensemaking in Digital Transformation: A Qualitative Study of Organizational Sensemaking in the Unfreezing Stage of “New Hydrographic Infrastructure” in Sjødivisjonen

Miriam Isachsen & Karoline Eim

Student thesis: Master thesis


To help Sjødivisjonen succeed with their ongoing digitalization project, “New Hydrographic Infrastructure (NHI)”, we have studied the employees’ sensemaking and -giving processes and the possible consequences of these. Hence the research question “how have employees in Sjødivisjonen made sense of the ongoing change process, and what does this mean for the further process?”. Based on theorists such as Maitlis and Sonenshein (2010), Weick (1995) and Gioia and Chittipeddi (1991), our qualitative research has identified several characteristics that explain the employees’ sensemaking processes. The sensemaking processes are based on the individual’s identity, their emotions related to the change process and their previous experiences. Furthermore, the employees’ sensemaking processes are ongoing, social and affected by their colleagues’ sensegiving efforts. Even though all ten informants say they are willing to change, we found that the organization is not fully unfreezed and ready to implement change initiatives. This is because Sjødivisjonen is yet to establish a common understanding of the change process (Gioia & Thomas, 1996). If Sjødivisjonen implement change initiatives prematurely, it is likely that they will meet additional obstacles and it will be difficult for them to succeed with the change process (Lewin, 1947). Based on our empirical findings, we advise the leaders to further engage in sensegiving by addressing the employees’ need for reassurance and orientation. More specifically we recommend the leaders to pay attention to the employees’ emotions, and to invite them to a dialogue where they can share their change experiences and discuss change initiatives and ideas. Lastly, we recommend the leaders to increase the employees’ involvement in the change process. The recommendations based on our empirical findings can be seen in relation to theoretical points given by Kraft, Sparr and Peus (2018), Huy (1999), and Kotter and Schlesinger (1979). We believe these initiatives can help Sjødivisjonen address the hindering forces that our research has revealed, and thus succeed with unfreezing the organization. Among others, Lewin (1947) and Gioia and Thomas (1996) argue that this is the key to succeed with transformation.

EducationsMSocSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages130