This qualitative study explores the conceptual links between 2 different approaches to managerial cognition, sensemaking and cognitive bias, in the context of organizational change. A longitudinal case study utilizing both real-time assessments and retrospective sensemaking data from interviews with 26 hospital employees at 3 points in time was undertaken. Patterns related to individuals' retrospective accounts and real-time assessments were identified and used to construct 4 prototypical narratives. Data analysis revealed that organizational change was not a markedly negative experience for most informants, which is contrary to the prevailing theme in the literature. This and other findings are discussed in terms of sensemaking and cognitive bias. This study makes 2 contributions to our understanding of how individual's experience and make sense of organizational change over time as (a) little is known about how the process of change unfolds over time at the individual level and (b) extant research has not investigated the extent to which individuals' retrospective sensemaking about organizational change reflects or diverges from their real-time assessments over the course of the change. More broadly, the study provides insights and focused advice for management researchers regarding the use of retrospective data to understand individuals' perceptions of situations that have already occurred.

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Keywords Cognitive bias, Organizational change, Paradox, Retrospective, Sensemaking
Persistent URL
Journal Journal of Organizational Behavior
Gover, L. (Laura), & Duxbury, L. (2017). Making sense of organizational change: Is hindsight really 20/20?. Journal of Organizational Behavior. doi:10.1002/job.2208