Academics Sensemaking Of Change and Managing Change in Higher Education Institutions

Chidobem, Chiamaka (2023) Academics Sensemaking Of Change and Managing Change in Higher Education Institutions. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Chiamaka Chidobem PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Dec 2021_Final Award Apr 2023.pdf - Accepted Version

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Understanding the process and outcomes of sensemaking, particularly in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), is a matter of concern. This thesis investigated how academics make sense of change and its management in higher education institutions (HEIs). It explored the factors academics reference and how these factors interact as academics construct their realities and enact change in HEIs. The assumption guiding this thesis is that the different actors of change are participants and co-constructors in the change process. It echoes the stance that organisational change is an interpretative process in which change leaders and recipients create and shape change outcomes (Balogun, 2006).

Adopting a multi-case study design, it also examined how the institutional context of HEIs influences the sensemaking of different change actors (manager- academics and front-line academics). It drew data from interviews with 27 academics across three UK institutions, comprised of manager- and front-line academics. To understand organisational systems, scholars explore their properties and behaviour to reveal why it is what it is and why it behaves the way it does. The present thesis adopted this analytic technique to move beyond extending knowledge of the sensemaking of academics on change in HEIs towards facilitating understanding. By implicating sensemaking's individual and organisational features, it responds to calls to extend understanding of narratives and sensemaking.

A significant contribution of this thesis is the finding that sensemaking is simultaneously cognitive and discursive. Other contributions of this thesis are (1) It confirms that multiple interacting resources shape sensemaking narratives of change rather than singular sensemaking resources. Furthermore, it highlights how these resources interact as academics construct meaning about change in HEIs. Academics’ development of meaning implicates subjectivity, the formation of narrative and cognitive and discursive resources, which include leadership, identity, culture and context. (2) It found that academic identity was integral to the perspective of change and all sensemaking narratives. The findings from this thesis support the minimal empirical evidence that identity is a critical resource used by academics to construct meanings of change in HEIs. (3) An understanding of the uniqueness of HEIs and the relationship between HEIs and the environment is inherent in academics’ interpretive processes. Because of the nature of HEIs, manager academics and frontline academics construct predominantly similar narratives of change in HEIs. (4) It provides empirical evidence that Context plays a broader role beyond constraining sensemaking. It observed that specific institutional contexts influenced which aspect of a particular narrative became prominent across the three institutions.

Overall, the thesis adds an essential dimension to the body of knowledge on sensemaking and HEIs. It identifies a framework that consolidates the essence of academics’ sensemaking. It captured the dynamics of academics' sensemaking and the mechanisms of the sensemaking process. Its findings on the perspectives of change and the factors that shape this made explicit the interpretation and meaning construction of academics in universities implementing organisational change and the varying realities that become enacted.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
December 2021Submitted
April 2023Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sensemaking, Academics, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Managing Change
Subjects: CAH17 - business and management > CAH17-01 - business and management > CAH17-01-01 - business and management (non-specific)
CAH17 - business and management > CAH17-01 - business and management > CAH17-01-05 - human resource management
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > Birmingham City Business School
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2023 12:46
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2023 12:46

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