What is OD and the Action Research Model (ARM)?


The Action Research Model (ARM) was introduced by Kurt Lewin in the late 1930’s.  As a social scientist, his approach involved the researcher as a social change expert who helps the client by supporting and conducting research to help organizations bring about positive, sustainable change. The ARM process encourages collaboration and cooperation among leaders and employees to improve their relationships and communication. According to Lewin, change is best achieved when the researcher (OD Professional) and the client (Senior Leaders) cooperate together to identify needs and implement solutions.

The Action Research Model is the gold standard for organizational change. Through Action Research, the OD Practitioner gains a deeper understanding of the system at hand, while the client group takes ownership of their living system. The OD Professional and the client join forces to achieve the goals of the change process.

Action research is problem centered, client focused, and action oriented. It involves the client system and an OD change agent in conducting a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding, and problem-solving process. The client and the change agent collaborate together to identify and prioritize specific problems, analyze data to find the root causes, and develop action plans for coping with problems realistically and practically.

OD change agents use scientific methodology to plan and collect data, form and test hypotheses, and measure results. Although not pursued as rigorously as in a laboratory, it is nevertheless an integral part of the process.

Action research also sets in motion a long-range, cyclical, self-correcting mechanism for maintaining and enhancing the effectiveness of the client’s system by leaving the system with practical and useful tools for self-analysis and self-renewal.  This is called the maintenance, separation, and termination phase, which involves defining a new process, implementing the change, and measuring results.

For the Action Research Model to be successful, several conditions must be established:

  • The problem must be owned by two or more members of the organization and tied to organizational goals
  • An internal or external change agent (OD Expert) helps lead the change
  • Employees must be involved in the feedback process
  • Senior leaders must be involved in leading the change and provide resources, support, and involvement

When launching a change initiative, the OD Professional relies on the scientific approach of the Action Research Model to guide them to lead the change and create a customized approach to implement the change.

The OD Professional serves as more of a “helper” role than an “expert” role, although the role can also be a blend between these two. In most cases, the OD Professional leads the client group in every aspect of the project, including:

  • Establishing change priorities
  • Collecting and interpreting data
  • Disseminating and making sense of the results
  • Creating action plans based on the results
  • Implementing the action plans

The OD Professional demonstrates a wide range of competencies in order to effectively help the client through the change management process.  Some of the competencies include: Organization Systems, Human Interaction, Facilitation, Influence Skills, Planning and Organizing, Problem Solving and Decision Making, Process Improvement, Change Management, Behavioral Science, Research Methodology, Strategic Action Planning, Measurement, Communication, Business Acumen and Strategy, Designing Interventions, and Contracting.

Developing OD competencies can be learned through experience, however, learning from other OD professionals can provide you with the support, advice, guidelines, examples and tools needed to be successful.

To learn more about becoming an OD Professional and the Action Research Model, visit www.instituteod.com.

Dr. Nancy Zentis is the CEO of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills Workshops for ongoing learning.  She can be reached at info@instituteod.com.  For more information about our certification programs and professional development workshops, please visit our website www.instituteod.com.

Institute of Organization Development

IOD offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance in their career in the field of OD.  If you are new to OD, you will benefit from the OD Process Consulting Certification Program (ODPC).  If you have been in the field for several years but lack formal OD training, the Organization Development Certification Program (ODCP) will provide you with the tools and skills needed to advance in the field of OD.

IOD’s OD Certification Programs are offered online over 8 months, meeting 3 hours per month.  Each session is delivered through Go-to-training.  Our expert faculty provide interactive discussions, examples, tools, guidelines, and resources to enrich your learning experience.


This certification program provided me with the resources and tools I needed to practice OD.  The structure and process helped me to be more confident and focus on helping the client achieve their goals.

The practical experience I learned during this program gave me the confidence to support organization change management initiatives.  I used the skills to transfer my knowledge immediately after each session.


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