Action Research for Successful Organizational Change

Action Research is a useful method for facilitating organizational change by collaborating and involving the client in the entire process of diagnostic, problem identification, experiential learning, and problem-solving process.

The entire process of action research is action oriented with the objective of making the change happen successfully. The process equally involves experimentation with the various frameworks in practical situation and application of various theories in various contexts which require change.

In other words, the process of Action Research requires three distinctive stages which are consistent with the Lewin’s Model which describes the three stages of change.

  1. Diagnosing the need for change (unfreezing)

  2. Introduction of an intervention (moving)

  3. evaluation and stabilization of change (refreezing)

The most commonly used model of action research which is used in the contemporary scenario is Warner Burke’s 7 Step Action Research Model. These 7 steps are Stage of Entry, Contracting, Data Collection, Providing Feedback, Strategic Planning, Planning & Designing Interventions and Evaluating the success of Interventions.

Advantages of Action Research Model

  1. A Systematic Approach to Problem Resolution and Dealing with the Challenges of Business

    • Action Research Model improves an organization’s preparedness in proactively responding to the change by anticipating the change in advance and developing the internal mechanisms.

    • Action Research Model is highly methodical and adopts a step-by-step approach which helps the OD professionals in planning and implementing interventions directed towards improving the organization’s competitiveness and business situation.

    • The Model takes into account all the problems in a holistic manner, and it is equally ensured that the problems are addressed proactively with effective solutions.

  2. Helps in Analysis of Issues and Developing the Interventions Accordingly

    • Action Research focuses on converting the information into action.

    • It is helpful in identification of the requirements of the client and the existing/potential challenges, development of a contract which involves definition of the key deliverables and the working relationship, data collection and identification of gaps/root causes of the issues, analysis of the data for setting the priorities and the plan of action, deciding on the appropriate interventions and developing a plan for implementing the interventions for achieving the intended objectives.

    • Implementation of successful change programs on a short-term as well as long-term basis.

  3. Facilitates a Learning Culture

    • The data collected in the entire process can be used in diverse areas such as the implementation of quality tools for continuous improvement, strategic planning, change management, decision making & problem solving, communication process and organizational restructuring, leadership development and implementation of process improvement initiatives.

    • Fosters a deeper understanding related to the organizational functioning and the challenges; provides best alternatives or strategic solutions for handling a problem at hand or various organizational issues.

  4. Key Involvement of Senior Leaders and Various Stakeholders

    • In the entire process of Action Research, the Change Agents act as the champions of change who effectively take charge of the entire process as process experts, provide feedback and are involved in extensive communication with the key stakeholders across various levels.

      They involve the top management professionals as well as the stakeholders in the process, as without their consent and involvement the objectives of change implementation cannot be achieved.

  5. Facilitates Collaboration

    • The change agent collaborates with the client in the process of identification of problems and accords specific ranks to the problems, devises techniques or methods for identifying the real cause of the problems and develops effective plans offering realistic as well as practical solutions for addressing the problems.

    • Helps in fostering mutual trust and interdependence which are very essential in the pursuit of organizational success.

    • Helps in Rebuilding the Organizational Culture and involves the confidence as well as people in the entire process of organizational change, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible if the authoritarian style of leadership would have been exercised.

  6. Results in Performance Improvement in all areas

    • The Action Research Model adopts a comprehensive approach to identifying the areas of improvement in all areas which may affect organizational functioning and success in the long run.

    • The process leads to a long-term improvement in the performance from all perspectives by building a learning environment, facilitating knowledge and skill transfer in a better manner and following a structured/systematic approach for organizational improvement.

    • Helps in achieving the strategic goals of the organization by facilitating an alignment between the strategic objectives and the goals of the action research intervention.

    • The process of action research helps in leadership development by developing their facilitation skills, developing team building and team management skills, understanding the issues of the team members and working collaboratively for realizing the pre-defined objectives.

    • Action Research views an organization from a wholistic perspective instead of paying importance to the individual subsystems of the organization in parts. This helps the leaders in visualizing a bigger picture and in implementing a roadmap of action or plans for improving organizational performance and overall productivity.

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Change Management