Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview

11
Carrying Out the Process of Change: Some Implementation Steps

The seats on the train of progress all face backwards; you can see the past but only guess about the future. 1

Evaluation and data collection reports most often identify the need for change and the problems or issues central to an organization. The information collected reflects issues and events people have found interesting and important. However, creating a novel and nonroutine organizational transformation is more challenging and difficult than just summarizing the need for change. 2 Such an organizational transformation relies on ideas and a vision of the future.

A home renovation metaphor illustrates how data gathering and analysis can be useful in creating a novel and nonroutine organizational transformation. In renovating a home, the builder must assess the technical features of the present structure--its foundation, bearing walls, electrical facilities, and plumbing system. The builder must pinpoint the problems to resolve and define the needs of the home owner.

An assessment of the need for change might focus on the house's structure or the customer's needs and wishes. However, this is only one set of data or perspective on renovating a home. A successful and thoughtful renovation emerges from someone's vision of what the renovation might look like based on architectural ideas, trends in construction, and new materials available. The vision, a creative idea, is "tailored" to the present structure and data. The final proposal for the change emerges from the initial sketches to the more detailed architectural plan which is submitted to the building inspectors and engineers. A plan for construction assists the builder implement the envisioned design.

Data collection and analysis are most valuable when they provide a reflection of the interests and issues to be addressed. They should not provoke resistances, embarrass people, or force people to take sides to defend their positions. The data gathering or assessment phase of any change project provides

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