Management of Meanings: When the Gears Don’t Align

by  Guest Author  |  Team Dynamics
Management of Meanings: When the Gears Don’t Align

This post is part of our 2017 Lead Change Group Guest Blogger Series. Today we are pleased to share a post from Susan Thorn.

Much of the adopted research on the field of strategic management and leadership depicts the successful leader as planner, decision maker, and instigator of structure and sustainable processes. Newer models and emerging gaps, however, are surfacing in the field based on some early little known work that Warren Bennis briefly alluded to: the management of meanings in leadership competency and its relationship to organizational performance.

“There is a profound difference between information and meaning”. Warren G. Bennis

Leaders say many things and behave in many ways; often our teams are unclear of the intent in our words and behaviors. This creates a manifold of personal perceptions, and soon the gears of our organizations are not aligned. As a result of our limited understanding and related challenges , we tend to overlook this crucial aspect of leadership in our training and development programs.

Management of meanings recognizes that strategic management originates in the duality of leading change. This duality includes the fundamentally social aspect as well as the interpretive nature of strategy formation and implementation. The management of meanings is the mechanism for creating the “why” for your teams and aligning the gears of your organization.

Where gears are not aligned, change will be nonexistent, or at a minimum very slow. This work is challenging and can be further compounded by the direct and indirect realism for members of our teams based on previous experiences to which we’ve have no control, and the sometimes false testimonial influence it represents. Today’s organizations are complex living breathing organisms, and in the absence of the management of meanings the culture can quickly take off on a newer journey all its own. In consideration of all of that, the mere thought of acquiring any sense of ongoing competency in leading change through the management of meanings to positively influence teams and create a shared interpretation of meanings is formidable.

The four gears of success include:

  • a team consensus in the shared vision
  • a collective understanding of the structural support through access to resources
  • feelings of empowerment in the creation of valued experiences
  • individual member autonomy through an acquired knowledge and skill set.

Organizational synergy is created through a management of meanings that infuses trust and adds to the justification of beliefs for each team member (Tweet this).

When each team member understands the meanings within an organization, the total amount of justified true beliefs increases, creating a multiplier effect and superior synthesis which serves to increase the speed at which positive change occurs and is sustained.

Aligning the Gears

The strategies for this change in how we infuse shared meaning must include a method for improved socialization to all members of the team. Don’t drive past the silos — remove them. We must create an avenue to invite input from all intended stakeholders, analyzing gaps and opportunities before ever moving forward if we expect to drive change faster. Lastly, export what you learn, connect individuals to resources, socialize meaning and direction, and for sustainability… repeat.

Susan Thorn has been spreading her passion for leading change and health and wellness in the healthcare leadership sector for more than 25 years. Through her passion for improved models of healthcare care delivery, she guides individuals and healthcare organizations based on the principles of leading change. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Psychology and Industrial/Organizational Engineering while working as a Senior Director in healthcare as well as a consultant for the healthcare ambulatory community. When not in the office you can find her writing, working out, and pursuing her passions in life, love, and servant leadership. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.


What suggestions to YOU have for a team whose gears are out of alignment? Tell Susan about them in the comments!
Photo Credit: Nevodka/123RF

About The Author

Articles By guest-author
The Lead Change Group is pleased to invite selected authors to share guest posts with us. We appreciate their insight and perspective.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jane  |  26 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Thank you for taking the time to write about how effective change occurs – and is also sustained. I remember a presentation I attended on this topic where they showed those silos as you mentioned. It was a relatively new concept at the time, but so important to our working together to stop being so territorial and come together with shared knowledge. Teams work so much better, gaps are closed, and goals can be accomplished when knowledge and processes are shared. I was born with the idea that if I learn something new I have to share it so others can learn it too.

Susan Thorn  |  27 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Jane Anderson, so true. I love learning from others, and the networking that occurs! Every man is my superior in some way in that I may learn from him/her…. and teach! Thank you for your comment!

Join The Conversation