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Implementing the Action Research Model
Change influences every aspect of life. For organizations, change is the way to remain competitive and to grow. Being prepared to initiate, anticipate, and respond positively to change is beneficial to efficiency and sustainability of organizations. To further plan for change to achieve the best results, organizations can implement successful change programs for short and long term. Therefore, the Action Research Model can help to facilitate change.

Action research is problem-centered, client-centered, and action-oriented. It helps involve the client system in a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding, and problem-solving process. Further, action research requires change agents, who act as the conduits for delegation and feedback, to take on pivotal responsibilities and information to effectively communicate data.

This data is then introduced in joint, open sessions instead of being simply returned in the form of a written report. The client and the change agent then collaborate in identifying and ranking specific problems, in devising methods for finding their real causes, and in developing plans for coping with them both realistically and practically.

Action research focuses on putting information to action. Accordingly, the OD approach to action research includes three stages:

  • STAGE 1
    A series of planning actions initiated by the client and the change agent working together. During this stage, the client and change agent begin initial research of the problem(s) and theorize perspectives.
  • STAGE 2
    The action or transformation phase. This stage requires collaboration and involvement of all active participants.

  • STAGE 3
    The output or results phase. This final stage produces findings, analysis, conclusions and reflections.

An example of action research is the Warner Burke’s Action Research Model. The Warner Burke’s Action Research Model provides us with a seven-step model to implement change.  This model helps clients identify business needs and challenges, create a contract to define the working relationship and deliverables, collect data to identify the gaps and find the root causes, analyze data to identify priorities and actions needed, identify the interventions needed, and create a project plan. This project plan helps achieve long term goals, implement the interventions, collect feedback to measure results, and transfer the skills and knowledge learned to imbed the process into the culture.

By using the action research model, OD Practitioners demonstrate better skills as facilitators, coaches, counselors, meeting planners, conflict mediators, and process owners.  They transfer their knowledge to the organization in data collection, analysis, statistical tools borrowed from areas such as quality management, strategic planning, communication, problem solving and decision making, team building, culture change, systems thinking, leadership development, and process improvement.

Author:  Dr. Nancy Zentis, CEO of Institute of Organization Development. She can be reached at nancy.zentis@instituteod.com.

If you would like to learn more about the Action Research Model and our OD Certification Program, please click on the relevant link below.