Action Research is a powerful way to collect and process information in support of change
The steps in the process we use at StrategyWorks are shown in the diagram below:
Preparation for Contracting
The consultant collects information on the organisation or project in order to discuss a possible contract with the client.
- The client and the consultant accept responsibility for the success of the contract on a 50/50 basis. This provides a sustainable symmetry to the relationship.
- Both parties freely consider all wants and agree those to be addressed in each step of the contract.
- The parties contract for behaviour but no one can contract for the other person to change their feelings.
- Social contracts are always negotiable and each person should be happy to renegotiate a contract midstream where this is appropriate.
1. Data Collection
It is worth collecting information at three different levels:
- The technical or business problem.
- Who is involved and what they are contributing to the problem.
- What the client is doing to create the problem or prevent a resolution.
Data may be collected in the following ways:
- Interviews; structured or unstructured with individuals or groups.
- Document analysis.
- Direct observation of interactions in the client arena.
2. Evaluation and Diagnosis
The data collected should be structured to draw out the most information. The consultant may use published organisational models to develop hypotheses covering the observed trends.
3. Feedback and Action Planning
Feedback is best given in a workshop or series of workshops involving all of the people who supplied information during data collection. The consultant may present the findings in three different sessions:
First to the sponsor, then the sponsor’s immediate team and then to everyone else, preferably in one large workshop. During the feedback sessions, specific time is set aside to identify actions to address issues raised during the session. Action definition is best handled in a project context.
4. Implementation and Measurement
Implementation involves identifying roles, responsibilities, timelines and budgets to complete the defined actions and applying well understood project management technique.
The quality and performance of implementation actions are evaluated as well as the extent to which the relevant issues are being addressed. Evaluation implies data gathering and leads into the first step of the next iteration of the action research cycle.
5. Extension Recycling Termination
It is often useful to plan at least two cycles through the Action Research Loop. During implementation of the previous cycle I will renegotiate my contract with the sponsor of the project. We may agree to terminate my involvement at this stage.