Middle managers, strategic sensemaking and discursive competence

Linda Rouleau, Julia Balogun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

361 Citations (SciVal)


This paper seeks to better understand the way middle managers contribute strategically to the development of an organization by examining how they enact the strategic roles allocated to them, with particular reference to strategic change. Through vignettes drawn from the authors' current research, a framework is developed that shows two situated, but interlinked, discursive activities, ‘performing the conversation’ and ‘setting the scene’, to be critical to the accomplishment of middle manager sensemaking. Language use is key, but needs to be combined with an ability to devise a setting in which to perform the language. The paper shows how middle managers knowledgeably enact these two sets of discursive activities by drawing on contextually relevant verbal, symbolic, and sociocultural systems, to allow them to draw people from different organizational levels into the change as they go about their day-to-day work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-983
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of management studies
Issue number5
Early online date29 Mar 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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