Perceptions of Organization Development in South Korea: The Use of a Sensemaking Approach

Young Sun Lee, Christopher Rees

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This qualitative study explores how employees engage in sensemaking during Organization Development (OD) initiatives in chaebols, that is, large family-owned firms in South Korea. In adopting a case study approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 37 respondents drawn from different levels of a chaebol to address three research questions. First, what key contextual factors are associated with employees’ sensemaking at different levels of an organization? Second, how do individuals at different levels of the organization make sense of an OD initiative through the ‘searching for plausibility’ property of sensemaking? Third, what contextual cues are influential when employees engage in ‘identity construction’ in sensemaking in response to an OD initiative? The findings and implications of the study demonstrate multiple subjective realities which employees from different levels construct, indicating that the prevailing norms and practice within the existing culture which have been influential in constructing the identities of employees should be identified when attempting to implement OD to change the organizational culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-258
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Resource Development International
Issue number3
Early online date26 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Organization Development
  • South Korea
  • Dialogic OD
  • Sensemaking
  • Chaebols

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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