Coordination in a not-for-profit organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic: organisational sensemaking during planning meetings

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Purpose: The authors examine how a not-for-profit organisation (NPO) coordinates NPO's actions during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic to remain focussed on strategic and operational goals. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted a live case study of an NPO as the crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. Drawing on a sensemaking perspective that incorporates sensegiving, the authors develop a framework of five types of organisational sensemaking. The authors analyse weekly planning meetings during which managers discussed past performance, forecast performance and the forecast duration of current cash reserves. Findings: The authors show how three of the five types of organisational sensemaking helped to coordinate actions. The authors highlight how accounting information triggers organisational sensemaking processes; but depending on the type of organisational sensemaking, accounting information has little further role. The authors also show that the stability of decisions depends on the types of organisational sensemaking. Practical implications: The authors show how coordination as a management control practice is enabled by organisational sensemaking within an NPO during a crisis. Organisational sensemaking enabled the agreement of actions, which enabled coordination. Accounting practices provided trigger mechanisms to facilitate organisational sensemaking. Originality/value: Since this study is the first to examine sensemaking processes and accounting practices in coordination in an NPO in a pandemic, the authors contribute to the limited research on NPOs during crises and on the management control practice of coordination. The authors extend the accounting literature on sensemaking by showing that, whilst accounting triggers organisational sensemaking, accounting is only implicated in one type of organisational sensemaking and by revealing the different outcomes of the different types of organisational sensemaking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1137-1166
Number of pages30
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Coordination
  • COVID-19
  • Management control
  • Non-profit organisations
  • Sensemaking
  • Sense giving

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