Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview

1
A Definition of Action Research

There appears to be a growing recognition of the difficulties involved in using the traditional scientific research paradigm for practical organizational development. The traditional scientist is becoming more and more sophisticated while the users of the research are demanding more practical, clear, and timely solutions. The procedures do not seem to recognize the dynamic nature of organizational problems.

A major concern for managers and researchers is that many organizations are linked to events where the surrounding organizational environments are changing at an dynamic rate. These environments might be characterized as complex and "turbulent." These are situations where goals are continually adjusting to new demands, and where the organization's growth is increasingly dependent on what is happening in the society at large. What becomes precarious in these situations is that individual organizations cannot expect to adapt successfully through their own actions. Rationality and science cannot solve many of the problems these organizations face.

Over the next decade or so, we can still expect to observe a number of researchers operating within the narrow limits of their own fields of science, receiving funding from long-established funding agencies. They will use conventional notions of research, relying on experimental canons--quantification, experimental control, replication, reductionism, and the like. They will write articles for academic journals based on controlled research settings, such as laboratory or simulated environments.

This book is about action-related research and organizational change, and attempts to summarize many of the developments over the last twenty-five years. Action research is a brand of research originating after World War II to solve problems in applied settings. Action research was never in the mainstream of the social sciences, as its tools and techniques were viewed as inadequate by the traditional scientist. It never got off the ground and was condemned to a sort of

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