Reflection paper on action research

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However, deaths reduce the stock of population, which occurs in a balancing loop see Coyle, , for further examples. These diagrams can become quite complex when there are a lot of variables that interact, so drawing a number of these diagrams as sub-systems is another option. CLDs were used in the People Strategy design described in a later section process to understand sub-system causality and to assess potential leverage points for change.

To understand the human influence in a hierarchy of causality, Figure 2 shows a pyramid model Senge, Based on an earlier example of absenteeism, this thinking model could be explained in terms of the thinking that is driving the system. For example, if the CEO of an organisation has a worldview that employees are not to be trusted, then the CEO will initiate systems that reflect that worldview. These systems would likely be based on strict rules, checking, assurance, providing proof, etc.

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So employees experiencing such a system have no flexibility and treat leave as an entitlement, often maximising potential absenteeism. Alternatively, if the CEO does trust employees to do good work, the organisation will likely have a policy that is more flexible, that allows some freedom for employees to take leave when it is needed.

With this worldview, most employees who are trusted are likely to take less leave. So in this way, the systemic structure drives behaviour. All of the projects discussed in this paper used the hierarchy to modify systems and influence behaviour. The questions from the model focus system designers on thinking about the current state, developing an image of the future changed state, and then working out what to do to bring about the change, and how to implement it. The second model is called the Thinking Wave, which is shown in Figure 4. This model shows a design process over a period of time where convergent thinking occurs in an iterative process between an executive team and a design team.

The top line in the model represents the executive and the bottom line represents the designers. The middle line shows the variation in thinking between the two, which gradually converge to a common view. For example, the executive may come up with an intent, and the design team may respond with an initial conceptual design.

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However, there may be unforeseen issues with the design, which causes further feedback. Over time, the issues are resolved and the design converges.

Reflecting on reflection: an action research approach to reflective practice

Both Figures 3 and 4 models were used in the design phase of the people strategy project, as further described in a later section. When designing new systems, it is important to involve end-users. It is most useful in bringing the views of end-users to the design table, so that the new system can be designed in a way that meets the needs of the end-users of the system.

Table I shows a comparison of user-based design with the seven values and ideas of Romme It is recommended that an information designer take on the role of the voice of design, with the project manager the voice of intent. All other stakeholder groups are represented through the voice of experience, which may consist of several stakeholder groups, both separately convened and integrated. It is critical in the method that all stakeholder groups end-users are represented and involved in the process. I used this process of design as project manager and voice of intent in a project to successfully re-design a health and safety system Molineux, Some aspects of design are discovered through the action of designing and creating, when the interaction of elements may lead to new insights or unexpected outcomes Jelinek et al.

It is often the internal components, such as relationships between people with each other and with elements of systems, combined with interaction from the environment outside the organisation that may lead to unexpected consequences or insights. Systems theory helps illuminate this interaction and explains that it leads to emergent properties of these systems and that small changes in the system can lead to large changes in outcomes Senge, So design is about creating contexts and meanings that enable the effective interaction of these systems elements to produce intended outcomes Jelinek et al.

The values are: each situation is unique; focus on purposes and ideal solutions; and apply systems thinking. The four other ideas that define the values and ideas regarding the process of design are: first, limited information; second, participation and involvement in decision making and implementation; third, discourse as medium for intervention; and fourth pragmatic experimentation Romme, The first of these, limited information, guards against excessive data gathering and helps in focussing on the future rather than the past.

The second and third, participation and discourse are crucial involvement of stakeholders in assessing solutions. The fourth, pragmatic experimentation is essential for trialling new ideas. A key approach I have used to design new systems was running two- or one-day workshops using SSM. SSM is about applying systems principles to structure thinking about things that happen in the world Rose and Haynes, Figure 5 displays the structure of SSM.

An example of a project using SSM was in re-designing the performance system in a large Australian government agency. SSM is an approach that allows creativity, understanding, dialogue and participation. Any use of SSM is seen by Checkland b , p. Checkland and Holwell , p. In organisations, creativity is important for innovation as well as for the development of new products and processes, and in many organisations, the creative thinking process is enabled through some form of intervention. Amabile et al. However, there are other factors, such as management priorities, production practicalities, organisational culture and politics, which will impact on creative ideas becoming innovative products.

To enable innovation, organisations may need to actively intervene in design and development activities. This is where SSM can be used as an enabler for the generation of creative ideas. One of the most creative elements in SSM is the use of rich pictures, which Checkland a , p. Such rich pictures engage the mind creatively and bring about a form of expression and creativity that is often latent in people.

Linking Research to Action: A Simple Guide to Writing an Action Research Report | JALT Publications

Checkland , p. In the performance system re-design process with the agency, the process consisted of four two-day workshops held in different cities, and based around an SSM Mode 1 design slightly modified , with the addition of an analysis from SSM Mode 2 of systemic viability, cultural feasibility, and political acceptability; and a self-evaluation adapted from Checkland and Tsouvalis The outcomes from the workshops were that 11 sub-systems were created or redesigned and a total of 73 system changes suggested.

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Participants also reported a very high level of engagement in the workshops and satisfaction with the outcomes. The context and process of the SSM workshops in this study closely matched the work conditions that enhance creativity, mentioned above. For example, the workshops encouraged freedom of exploration and play. Play is a fairly natural part of SSM, as noted by Clarke , p.

Positive group mood is also correlated to creative performance Fredrickson, The mood created in the workshops was noted as being positive, and the methodology lends itself as a process that results in accommodations between conflicting viewpoints leading to real action to improve the situation Checkland, b. The SSM process, if facilitated properly, creates an environment that reduces conflict and enhances focus on the issue, accommodating various viewpoints. The largest and most significant change project I undertook was the people strategy project, also in a large Australian public sector agency Molineux, However, as Schein observed, shifting culture in an organisation is an extraordinarily difficult task.

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In a report of a detailed case study of change in seven hospitals, Huq and Martin demonstrated that implementing large-scale whole of system change was very difficult, with only one of seven hospitals categorised as highly successful. The model in Figure 6 was developed as a result of the action research process used in people strategy project. It involved major change to HRs and leadership systems and was implemented through 12 organisation-wide sub-projects linked to a common philosophy and set of principles. The design team of four included myself. Therefore, the change strategy needed to be comprehensive enough to bring about a coordinated, systemic change in the structures that could help shape the culture.

The model at Figure 6 represents a process for integrating strategic HR management with cultural change utilising a systemic approach. The large ellipse at the top of the model is the context and systems thinking aspect of the model. The central circle in the model is systems practice which involves the thinking and design models and methods used for the change, such as SSM, CLD and user-based design, described previously. These techniques could be used at any stage of the change process.

The various systems techniques enable the user to design implementation processes, engage stakeholders, analyse contexts, evaluate complex dynamic information, and evaluate outcomes. The culture of the organisation could also be affected, even though this would not generally be an intention of management. Such unintended consequences of quick fix solutions will be avoided if systemic thinking is used. The four rectangles in the model outline the change process embedded in HR systems. First by outlining a design approach, then developing the change strategy, making the changes and evaluating the changes. The arrows in the model show that the elements of the model are purposefully inter-connected. The intentional design drives the leadership requirements for the change strategy. Continual feedback and evaluation in the form of an action research cycle is essential. Results from the people strategy project included sustained cultural change in the organisation, which arose from new and improved HR and leadership systems as measured over five years following the initial implementation.

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Results included improved morale, engagement, job satisfaction, leadership, performance, communication, health and safety, and employee relations. Other results include higher levels of feedback and participation in decision making and a greater alignment in individual performance and organisational direction. The HR systems and revised processes following the change programme included: Strategic HRM and workforce design: stated people HR philosophy and principles;.