Sensemaking of information technology solutions : the need to integrate the actor’s action – meaning – individuals, community and organization.

By Ana-Maria Davila-Gomez. Department of Administrative Sciences Université du Québec en Outaouais

Nowadays, organizations increasingly introduce information technology (IT) solutions seeking competitiveness and growth. Some examples are : productivity improving through decreasing internal cost, and increasing income through the installation of telecommunications devices (serving new markets with a more fluid and speedy information for decision making in record time). The former examples are conceived as organizational goals (objectives), and in doing so, people working in those organizations are supposed to be aligned with the named objectives. However, an organizational goal is not necessarily an item with which people identify themselves, given that many organizational acts have a disregard for a broader perspective that takes into account people’s expectations and consequences for the served community and society (Chanlat, 1998 ; Alvesson &Willmott, 1996 ; Giddens, 1991).

For instance, the automation of a service (e.g. an IT software for taking commands) could generate massive firing of personnel and greater client’s discontent, because of a decreasing in the service’s quality and a degeneration of the organization image by the referred acts. On the contrary, another IT solution (e.g. the extension of a University centre through the creation of distance courses) could generate, on the one hand a more accepted organizational image in the social context, but on the other an internal anxiety of employees, not from a losing-job perspective but as a panic about not having some technical skills. These examples show us that different actor’s meaning (sense) emerges not only within the organization (employees) but also from its surrounding community, as well as a continuum of modifications caused by new experiences that individuals face (Davila Gomez, 2003).

Therefore, seeking to contribute to a continual human and social development that organizations are called to accomplish, it is necessary to look at actor’s signification, action-meaning, in order to elucidate and, given the case, reorientate organizational and IT solution finalities

Thus, analysing some empirical data of a recent research we did regarding IT solutions as support in distance education, in this paper we propose a framework that contains the aforementioned considerations. We structure our paper as follows. First, we illustrate the diverse actor’s meaning (subjectivity -expectancies, representations, finalities, etc.-) within two senses (both, individual and social). Next, we detail our three framework components. (1) Axiology, as the accepted social values in a community. (2) Ontology, as each individual’s meaning according with its principles : motives to agree or impel actions. (3) The concept of continuous co-construction of meaning as one indispensable for sensemaking, it shows that reality and representation are both individual and social, as well as in permanent redefinition. Finally, we conclude presenting some guidelines for future researches concerned with sensemaking, moreover those regarding IT implementation. We also present some suggestions to include these themes in management and IT project courses.

References for the abstract :

Alvesson & Willmott (1996). Making Sense of Management : a critical introduction. Sage, London.

Chanlat, J.F (1998). Sciences sociales et management – Plaidoyer pour une anthropologie générale. Les presses de l’Université Laval, Ed. ESKA. Laval, Canad

Davila Gomez (2003). Hacia un Management Humanista desde la educación a distancia : intersubjetividad y desarrollo de cualidades humanas. Doctoral thesis, École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal, HEC Montréal. Canada

Giddens (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity : self and society in the late modern age. Standford University Press. California.

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