Sensemaking handoff: When and how?



Computer support helpdesks often engage in sensemaking while working on atypical problems. Handoffs are common in these sensemaking situations due to shift changes, because a different skill or perspective is needed or simply because the current sensemaker may be exhausted. Though handoff may be needed, it may not always be successful. This could be true because sensemaking involves non-routine activities for which no structural support for handoff may exist, or because sensemakers may not be sure what to handoff if sensemaking is not complete.

This study examined the issues related to sensemaking handoff in computer support helpdesks. Existing theories of sensemaking (Russell et al, 1993 and Weick, 1996) were used as a framework. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with two different computer helpdesk personnel groups at a large mid-western university. Successful handoffs occurred either very early or very late in the sensemaking process. This choice of handoff time as well as other aspects of handoffs are discussed using the principles of least collaborative effort [13] and mindfulness [18].