Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview
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8
Developing Data Gathering Instruments

A great variety of diagnostic instruments are available for studying organizations. Questionnaires and other data gathering instruments make it possible to study a whole range of topics from productivity and efficiency considerations to behavioral factors such as morale, organizational flexibility, and job satisfaction.

It may always seem easier to take a standardized questionnaire or instrument "from the shelf" and implement it according to the specific steps outlined. Such instruments provide information on many questions as well as providing a basis for comparison with other settings.

Organizational researchers use self-report instruments far more than any other form of data gathering. The measures persist because respondents can easily tally the results for large samples using the growing power of computers. The following comment may illustrate the consequences of this form of evaluation.

Heavy reliance on self-report information has excluded crucial populations from organizational inquiry, postponed cross-checking of propositions, inflated the apparent consequentiality of minor irritations in the workplace, and imposed a homogeneity of method which raises the prospect that the findings of the field are method-specific. 1

As a rule, standardized instruments are not used in action research, as they reflect the indicators of a large number of organizations. An action science suggests that data gathering tools--questionnaires, observations, and unobtrusive measures--should be designed as closely as possible to respond to each unique organizational setting. They should reflect the timely organizational issues, ideas, and manners of communication. Individuals in an organization have attached a certain importance and meaning to their statements and communications, and data gathering tools should respond to this.

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