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.


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