My name is Drew Weilage. I work with healthcare administrators to make work matter.


Every Wednesday in your inbox.

“What’s the story?” is a great sensemaking question

My favorite sensemaking question is “What’s the story?”

For three reasons:

  1. It defines what sensemaking is right there in the question: identifying the story of what’s going on in any context
  2. It speaks to the natural way we make sense of our world, whether at work or outside of it: by creating stories about what is happening
  3. It reveals an analogy for how to do sensemaking: The job of a journalist and reporting a story

Reporting a story—more classic sensemaking—requires (broadly) three activities:

  1. Doing research
  2. Talking to sources
  3. Thinking to connect the dots

It’s the same for sensemaking at work:

  1. Doing the work to learn what’s really going on
  2. Connecting with others and sharing knowledge 
  3. Thinking to connect the dots

Better sensemaking: you gotta think, you gotta talk to others, and you gotta do. It’s easy to miss the connection between doing and learning, but that’s how experience happens.

Here are a few ways to be a more effective at sensemaking (inspired by this Deborah Ancona writing):

  • Seek multiple sources of data; define data broadly, it’s not just something in a spreadsheet or on a dashboard
  • Involve people in your sensemaking; diverse perspectives will bring diverse mental models to sensemaking
  • Skip the stereotypes and seek out nuance; the complexity we work in ensures that every situation is going to be different
  • Remember the employees doing the work have the most information about the work
  • Create mental models, or maps, that emerge from the activity of sensemaking; it’s easy to overlay what we think we already know onto a new situation; communicate the model or map with images, analogies, metaphors, and stories
  • Attempt to change the system (system is broadly defined) to learn from it
  • Be aware your behavior influences the environment in which you are working; people create their own environments and can be constrained by them
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on email


"It's one email I'm excited to open."

Healthcare is changing. How we work hasn’t. And it’s holding us back.​

Get learning and encouragement to change work through the work.


A Slimmer Work Workout

Be notified when slimmer Work Workouts are planned. Enter your contact information and I’ll send you a note when the sign up is opened.