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Leadership insights

DL Meetup: SenseMaking your way into the HR of the Digital-Agile age

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

A sample result view of SenseMaker on some of the dyads
SenseMaker(R) survey results, visualised by Tony Quinlan. This clearly shows the journey HR needs to take to support Agile ways of working.

Thank you to those who attended the session on Monday and many thanks to our speaker Tony Quinlan from Narrate. Another special thank you to Cognitive Edge, More Beyond and Agile People for supporting this event with the Agile People SenseMaker® survey.

The PDF of the presentation can be downloaded from this link.

The video of Tony's talk can be viewed from this link.

We wanted to organise a deep dive on SenseMaker® for some time and we were really looking forward to this session. It did not disappoint and would have deserved attendance in the hundreds. Tony is one of the few Global experts on SenseMaking and it was a delight to have Tony sharing his knowledge of over 10 years working in this field.

The session started with a very simple practical capture of the thoughts in the room using post-its and sticky dots. We never thought that it could be that simple and effective. Of course, this does not open the slicing and dicing of the data as the online tool does, but it is already very revealing. By all means try this in your teams as an initial experiment with the concept of SenseMaking. Please see some of the pictures below:

A picture of a board view of the narrative capture in the room during the workshop
Capture of the Narratives from the room

Another picture of the narrative positioning, which shows overly negative
Types of stories about HR in the Agile landscape from the people attending the meetup (quite concerning!!)

Another picture of the capture during the workshop, on a triad - showing that stories were towards People & Culture + Operational Processes
Qualification of the type of stories that were captured

Another picture of another triad showing that the HR actions had an impact on the staff engagement and morale
Triade indicating the type of impact that the HR actions captured in the stories had.

Another view of dyads this time, showing that HR value Control and Creating Stability as opposed to empowerment and enabling new ideas
Perception from the room on what HR valued in the stories they captured

Tony then explained the reasons for using narratives and how triads and dyads worked. Traditional surveys tend to drive bias and influence answers. They do not work in a Complex world because they aim to normalise the answers. SenseMaker® on the other hand is designed as a container to enable real stories to surface, and often serendipity to happen. The main principle would be to capture a story on a subject and then ask the users to help us qualify the story from the triads and dyads. The art is to qualify the right question and establish the right balance of triads / dyads and their signifiers. For this, it is worth bringing in experts like Tony and Cognitive Edge.

Tony walked us through numerous projects he did around the world with some fascinating stories of application and discoveries. From the survey that Cognitive Edge made available, we then did a deep dive into the data and used some of Tony’s own analysis patterns to understand the trends, visualise zones of Positive and Negative stories, spot outliers, understand what we want less of, what we want more of, what to read from the data and what to question about it.

We did not stop at that either, we went further analysing how to shift from Triads and Dyads to narrative maps and how to use those. How to decide dimensions to bring on the maps, how to identify valleys and gradients to climb out of them. The shortest route to change is often not a straight line, but understanding instead where you already have stories that can pave the way from what we want less of towards what we want more off. Absolutely fascinating.

Picture of Tony explaining the topological view of the culture
Tony explaining how to shift from Triads to narrative maps and how to use the topology of the maps to set a path for change

We cannot thank enough Tony for the enlightenment of that evening. We will soon share the video and this is one to watch over and over again. SenseMaker® is definitely going to become a key tool in the Digital Leaders’ toolbox. We highly recommend to invest self in understanding more about it and we will aim to organise some sessions in the future to revisit this subject.

Please also note that although it is good to experiment, SenseMaking on large scale demands expertise in structuring the approach, setting up the signifiers and interpreting the results. Please consider assistance from Tony and Cognitive Edge to make it useful and meaningful. It is also fair to repay with some project work the time that such experts generously contributed to enhance our knowledge. We would be delighted to connect you.

Thank you and see you for our next meetup on the 20th of May.

More information about Tony Quinlan and Narrate:

Please visit and more specifically the page about narrative research at

Please also watch out the blog at details of a SenseMaker® day soon

Tony and Ken Power will be running a full one-day workshop at XP2019 in Montreal. It’ll be on Agile Transformation using complexity and sense-making and will run on the Saturday. If you are in the area, worth attending.

More information about More Beyond:

More information about Agile People:

More information about Cognitive Edge:


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