THE MEMBER-CENTERED CONFERENCE AS A RESEARCH METHOD*
Chris Argyris and Graham Taylor
THE PURPOSE of this discussion is to outline the use of a conference method as a research technique in the study of structure and function of an industrial situation.
Because of problems of identification, we are able to present only the following cursory picture of the plant organization.1
Plant X, a branch plant, is a medium-sized organization situated in a relatively heavy manufacturing area in the Midwest. The work is skilled and, to a certain extent, of the custom type. The work in the plant may be divided into three main departments which we will call A, B, and C. There are also two minor sections, the packing and shipping department and the stockhandling department. Finally, we will be concerned with three office divisions: order, planning (production control), and cost.
About a year before the start of the conference, the manager of Plant X heard of the research group through the University Extension Department. Six months later a research study was started on interaction within the plant. Soon after the authors arrived at the plant, the company requested that a supervisory course be given along lines similar to one that had been given earlier for the operators in one of the departments. It is important to realize that the management made this request for a course on a quid pro quo basis, that is, they extended to us opportunities for research in the plant, and, in return, they expected a course from us. It was stated that any sort of course would do, that the content, procedure, and aims of the group were not important if, in fact, they were relevant at all.
At the beginning of these sessions, the writers were under the impres-____________________