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In essence, action research, as it was defined by Pasmore (2006), is a procedure that involves methodically compiling data about an organization in order to pinpoint any ongoing or potential issues. Once this information has been gathered, it is fed into a system to be processed. However, the system theory, the chosen variables, and the data gathered must all be in alignment. This is an ongoing process that necessitates further data gathering.
For this process, there are a few stages that must be taken, including the ones listed below:
Entry Phase: This is the first phase, during which the needs and organizational structure are determined. At the same time the decision marker is identified and a trust relationship built up.
Next comes the Startup and contracting Phase – it entails identifying success factors for the organization and other real issues. The connection between these and the organizational culture is then determined and roles for the consultant and employees are clarified.
Following is the Assessment and Diagnosis Phase – this is where the data collection from all the employees of the organization is actually done. After assessing the data, the consultant then makes recommendation based on what has been evaluated by him/her.
Next is the Feedback Phase – the report findings need to be shared with all relevant stakeholders and this is started with the clients and cascaded down to everyone in the organization. By doing so, the process of incorporating new changes to the organization is enhanced.
Planning Phase – all feedback collected is then carefully analyzed and from that effective recommendations are brought up that will be applied to bring necessary changes. This is what will be included in the implementation plan drawn from the assessment data collected.
Intervention Phase – this is where the rubber meets the road as an actual change is effected within the organization. The action plan determines what needs to be done however; it must be flexible enough to allow for modification.
Evaluation Phase – there should be constant reviewing of the changes that have been effected and coming up with suggestions that will ensure gradual improvement and betterment of the organization with time.
Adoption Phase – evaluation in itself is not enough. There must be a mechanism whereby the organization always caused to remain focused and that positive changes are constantly embraced and implemented.
It is important to understand fully the depth and scope of Action Research and the best way to do this is by taking up various case scenarios and trying to solve the issues of the unique organizations, just as this assignment entailed. The following are the cases that Action Research was applied and in depth analysis is given for reasons for failure where some crucial steps were not followed.
1. The first Case is one XYZ Widget Corporation.
a. The Action Research step that was missing.
Unfortunately for XYZ Widget Corporation, they have missed the important steps of Evaluation and Adoption Phase. Without the evaluation phase there is no way of collecting the report and feedback of the action taken and therefore, the impact will not be understood. It is necessary to do this immediately and to make it a regular thing. The consultant team ought to have done another research soon after increasing the salary so as to obtain a response from the employees of the sales department. The adoption phase also would have been very crucial as it would have been provided the necessary pressure to enforce the changes needed for improvement of sales.
b. Reasons missing this step could have led to failure.
Without evaluation and adoption, changes made to an organization will end up not being implemented causing significant loss to an organization. For instance, in the case of XYZ Widget Corporation, the problem of low sales would continue to persist and this would eventually bring down this organization.
2. Case Two: HN Motors Company
a. The action research step that was missing
For this particular case, the one missing is the Startup and contracting Phase. It is unfortunate that the consultant never really introduced the benefit that introducing the new car model would bring to both departments. It is essential to analyze the success factors that a new change brings.
b. Why missing this step might have led to failure.
Lack of understanding by the employees regarding the cost-benefit analysis of the new product is detrimental to the company. Bringing in the hybrid car would highly increase the sales of the organization due to the high demand of the car regardless of the problems.
3. Third Case: Ace Carpet Organization. (Dr. Joseph Hotshot)
a. The action research that was missing
The case of Ace Carpet Organization is very similar to the earlier case of XYZ Corporation. This particular organization has impressively attained all the steps but failed the crucial one of Evaluation and Adoption phases. The CEO failed to develop a team whose task would have been to regularly check on the progress that the new changes have managed to bring. He could even have assigned Dr. Joseph Hotshot to evaluate even further how the Action Research was taken.
Additionally, the Adoption Phase is absent for this Ace Carpet corporation for no changes were effected.
b. Reasons that missing this step could have led to failure
It is of paramount importance to ensure that any changes made in an organization have a lasting effect in the long-term, this is what was missing in this case. The changes made only amounted to motivation among thee employees for a few weeks but this never developed into an organizational culture for there was no Adoption. In the end the problem was never solved.
4. Case Four: The Kooltrendy Internet software company
a. The Action Research or Organizational step that was missing.
This Company’s consultant missed out on the planning and evaluation phases. No analysis was done to evaluate the feedback and look at how the changes would have favored the employees of Kooltrendy. Once data is collected, a plan must be made to bring changes that are of positive impact to employees that are affected. The consultant never did this.
Also, the evaluation phase was never adhered to by the consultant. Once changes have been effected, there should be another research to see how employees are responding to new changes. There should have been justifiable reasons given by the consultant on why the “Fun Friday” event was being quitted by the Kooltrendy employees.
b. Reasons missing this research step may have led to failure.
If these steps are missed, then failure is imminent and the reason for this is the failure of understanding why employees were feeling discouraged and quitting from an activity that was meant for them. In the end, merging the two companies will also not be successful.
From the four case scenarios, it is obvious that every organization or corporation is different from another and each has its own unique set of problems. This, therefore, demands a deep understanding of action research and organizational development to identify the critical elements that need to be addressed and to be able to recommend the most appropriate solutions for those problems. This case analysis is an indication that action research and organizational development is an important part of the success of corporations.
Coghlan, D. (2012). Organization development and action research. The Routledge Companion to Organizational Change, 46.
McArdle, K. L., & Reason, P. (2008). Action research and organization development. Handbook of organization development, 123-136.
Pasmore, W. (2006). Action research in the workplace: The socio-technical perspective. Handbook of action research, 2, 38-48.
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