Action research strategies for Researching Organizations and Management Practices

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Learn the Action Research case study approach for studying organizations and managers and explore collaboration and management practices through the SSM and TIP processes. Understand how the action learning spiral can provide credibility, validity, and reliability for this research.

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Action research strategies for Researching Organizations and Management Practices

  1. 1. Action Research Strategies forResearching Organizations and Management Practices Kelley A. Conrad University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies
  2. 2. Action Research –Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) --Transferring Insight into Practice (TIP)• An Action Research approach – Origins in Lewin‟s (1946) research – Action Science defined by Argyris, Putnam, & Smith (1985) – Action Inquiry by Torbert (1976) – Action Learning by Mwaluko & Ryan (2000)
  3. 3. General Principles of Action Research Diagnosing Identify or define problemSpecifying Action Learning Planning Identify Consider alternative Findings Actions Evaluating Taking Action Study Select Course Consequences of Action Susman (1983), O‟Brien (1998)
  4. 4. Action Research –Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) --Transferring Insight into Practice (TIP)• Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) developed over 30 years by Checkland (2000) – Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (1993) – Soft Systems Methodology: A 30 year Retrospective (1999) – Refined in Learning for Action by Checkland and Poulter (2006)
  5. 5. Action Research –Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) --Transferring Insight into Practice (TIP)• Transferring Insight into Practice (TIP) developed by Huxham and Vangen over 21 years – Working together: Key themes in the management of relationships between public and non-profit organizations (1993) – Researching organizational practice through action research: Case studies and design choices (2003) – Managing to collaborate, the theory and practice of collaborative advantage (2005)
  6. 6. Soft Systems Methodology - Problematical SituationsBegins with a perceived real-world“problematical” situation.We identify a situation that makes us think“Something should be done about this, or it needsto be improved.”Think “problematical situations” NOT “problems”They can be improved but not “solved”
  7. 7. Soft Systems Methodology- WorldviewDifferent People have different perspectivesbusiness and organizational situations havemultiple interacting perceptionsProblematical situations are never static and havetwo characteristics:• Different worldviews need to be surfaced and examined• People are trying to act purposefullySSM using a social learning approach to takingaction to improve the problematical situation
  8. 8. Soft Systems Methodology - Problematical SituationsDefine the problematical situation and thecharacteristics of the intervention to improve itSeveral SSM strategies: Rich Pictures 3 Analyses One – The intervention Two – Social Three – Political
  9. 9. Soft Systems Methodology- Rich Pictures• Informally capture: – the main entities, structures, and viewpoints in the situation – Structures being used involved – Unique viewpoints – Processes – Current issues that are recognized – Potential issues
  10. 10. Soft Systems Methodology - Example of a Rich Picture (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 26.)
  11. 11. Soft Systems Methodology - Three AnalysesAnalysis one – The interventionThink about the three “roles” The person who caused the intervention (the client) The people conducting the investigation (the practitioner) The people affected by the situation and outcome (other issue owners )
  12. 12. Soft Systems Methodology - Analysis 1 (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 29.)
  13. 13. Analysis 1• Problematical Situation• Practitioner investigates using SSM• Process uses SSM to address how to do the study• Content of problematical situation addressed by SSM
  14. 14. Soft Systems Methodology - Analysis 2 - Social (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 31.)
  15. 15. Analysis 2 – Social• Reviews – Roles both formal and informal – Norms – Values • Envisioned as a creates and recreates cycle • Asks what are the interacting social roles that characterize the situation
  16. 16. Soft Systems Methodology - Analysis 3 - Political (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 37.)
  17. 17. Soft Systems Methodology - Analysis 3 - PoliticalHow is the power expressed in this situation?SSM uses a “Commodities” metaphor What commodities signal that power is possessed in the situation? How are these commodities obtained, used, protected, defended, passed on, relinquished?
  18. 18. Root Definitions (RD) are Central• Root Definitions (RD) are descriptive statements describing the activity system to be modeled
  19. 19. Soft Systems Methodology -Root Definition PQR Formula (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 40.)
  20. 20. Use SSM to Construct a model of aPurposeful Activity System• PQR formula guides the RD process Do P (Purposeful Activity- What to do?) By Q (How to do it? A Theory for support.) To Contribute R (Results – Why do it?)• Purpose is to create clarity about the activity that is appropriate to the Problematical situation
  21. 21. Soft Systems Methodology -Root Definition PQR Formula (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 40.)
  22. 22. Soft Systems Methodology - General Model of any Purposeful Activity - CATWOEC = Customers – Those affected by the Activity Victims or BeneficiariesA = Actors who perform the Transforming ActivitiesT = Transforming Process based on WorldviewW = WorldviewO = Owners who could stop the processE = Environmental Constraints taken as a given
  23. 23. Soft Systems Methodology -General Model of any Purposeful Activity - CATWOE (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 41.)
  24. 24. Soft Systems Methodology -Root Definition CATWOE Formula (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 40.)
  25. 25. Soft Systems Methodology - Three E’s – Performance CriteriaEfficacy – is the transformation (T) producing theintended outcome?Efficiency – is the transformation being achievedwith minimum use of resources?Effectiveness – is the transformation helping toachieve some higher level or longer term aim?The 3 E‟s are always relevant in building SSMmodels but we may add other criteria whenappropriate, like Elegance or Ethnicity.
  26. 26. Soft Systems Methodology - Root Definition 3 E’s (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 40.)
  27. 27. Soft Systems Methodology - Introducing Change• Introducing change can be modeled using SSM• Two key ideas – What enabling action is needed for the potential change to be accepted? • Recognizes the social context for the change • May require enabling action – Difficult to define the criteria by which the change will be judged „completed‟ and/or „successful.‟
  28. 28. Soft Systems Methodology - Introducing Change (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, p. 58.)
  29. 29. Soft Systems Methodology - Facilitation• Use the SSM Model and model building process in consultation with the client to question the perceived real-world situation.• Structure the discussion/debate about the change.• Seek accommodations (versions which different people with different worldviews can live with) which meet criteria – Systemically desirable – Culturally feasible
  30. 30. Final Phase is Meta-level reflection,evaluation, and improvement• Monitor all stages of the SSM model• Refine or redefine criteria for efficacy and efficiency• Separately define criteria for effectiveness• Evaluate SSM model and results• Take necessary Control Actions• Record in order to Refine model
  31. 31. TIP version of SSM elaboratedAction Research• Eden & Huxham (1996) are proponents of rigorous Action research – Deliberate, Systematic data collection • Collect all flip charts • Take notes at meetings – Reflexively review the “data” – Consider how to “justify” the research results • Accuracy • Generalizability – Role played by the Researcher-Facilitator Susman (1983), O‟Brien (1998)
  32. 32. Key Issues with TIP• The degree to which the research agenda is raised overtly with the participants• The visibility to participants of the research methods used• The ambiousness and risk level of the action intervention (likelihood of being favorably perceived)
  33. 33. TIP Model –Including Collaborative Consultation ReflexivityInputs Systematic Data Systematic Data Research Outputs Collection Collection Developing & Testing Sensemaking, Theory Building, & Writing
  34. 34. Quick Summary - SSM• Most discussions in human situations is of poor quality – Topics interact – Participants speak at different levels – Participants bring different judgments to bear – Participants have different worldviews• SSM can make discussions more coherent and deepen level of thinking (it surfaces the worldviews which govern the way issues are perceived and judged)• The methodology alone will do the job but SSM can increase the quality of the conversation.
  35. 35. Quick Summary• The methodology should be treated as a set of principles but that they need to be tailored to the situation• The the best way to learn SSM is to use it• The principles are very resilient – they work well in practice even if unevenly applied• The understanding of the problematical situation is only a springboard to action.
  36. 36. Thank You
  37. 37. What Questions or Comments do you Have?
  38. 38. Thank You

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