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Insider Action Report
The subject of researching within one's own organization or company, more particularly through the approach of action research has, for many years, been neglected. Basically, action research is always presented in terms of events where a researcher, who is external to the organization, comes into the organization temporarily and works with the organization's members for a specified period of time. The researcher then leaves once the project time is over. Most recently, many organizations and companies have started appreciating the need and importance of insider action research. The emergence and development of insider action research are attributed majorly to the integration of doctoral action researches, which is carried in universities and other institutions of higher learning around the world. This has led to the legitimization of the art of insider action research in almost all organizational sectors, such as nursing, education, business, community, and social works. At the same time, conceptualization and understanding of people about the insider action research have also developed (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).
By definition, action research is an approach to the research methodology which normally aims at taking actions and at the same time creating theory or knowledge about the action taken. The outcomes always include both the research and action outcome. This is the main difference between insider action research and traditional approaches which are aimed only at theories of knowledge. The action research is normally carried out in a cyclic manner. This includes: (a) planning for the research; (b) taking the necessary action; (c) and evaluation of the action taken which leads to further planning. Another feature of action research is that it is relatively collaborative, i.e. all the members of the organization or the company being studied actively participate in the process. This is contrary to the traditional approach where the members are only objecting to the study (Bjorkman & Sundgren 2005).
On the other hand, insider action research can be primarily defined as a subject in the research literature, where one researches within his or her own company. Carrying research in one's own company or organization would mean that the member of the organization has an explicit role in researching in addition to his or her normal roles in that company. This, therefore, means that the researcher must be able to properly balance his or her normal membership duties and additional roles of research and inquiries. Undertaking an insider action research involves engaging in a rigorous process of diagnosing various situations, planning, taking actions, and evaluating the whole project (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).
There are several issues that one needs to consider when embarking on insider action research. These include the issue of getting access and permission from the relevant authorities, developing and maintaining support from sub-systems in the company and peers, and issues of selection of the area of study. These multiple roles help in identifying the complicated parts of the research project (Gummeson 2003).
Action research majorly focuses on the research in action and not on the research about action. The central idea in insider action research is that a researcher uses a scientific approach in studying the resolution of important organizational and social issues.
Challenges and Issues in Researching One's Own Organization
Doing insider action research is a complex undertaking and has its distinctive challenges and issues. These issues and challenges are normally presented majorly by the concepts of pre-understanding, role duality, access, and organizational politics face by the insider action researcher. Now the following concepts can be discussed in details:
According to Gummeson (2003), pre-understanding includes such things as experience, insights, and knowledge of people before they undertake the actual research. It can be basically referred to as having prior knowledge before one engages in the actual research project. The experience, insights, and knowledge of the insider action researcher apply to both theoretical understandings of the dynamics of the organization and the lived experience of one's own organization. However, many people have misunderstood the notion of pre-understanding and have mistaken it with tacit knowledge. Personal knowledge and experience of one's own job and the system is indeed a distinctive pre-understanding for the insider researcher. One main advantage that an inside action researcher has over an external researcher is that he or she has prior knowledge about the informal structures and cultures of the organization (Gummeson 2003).
Every organization normally lives two lives: public or formal life and private or informal life. Public life is normally presented in terms of the organization's formal documentation, such as its goals, mission statement, assets, annual reports, etc. On the other hand, the private life of an organization is normally experimental, i.e., a life that is experienced by the workers of an organization. These include power blocs, norms, organizations cultures and so on. An insider action researcher knows all the taboo phenomena of the organization i.e. what is to be talked about and what cannot be discussed. He or she also knows what occupies the minds of the colleagues. The insider action researcher can therefore operate freely within the organization without any suspicion (Roth & Shani 2007).
However, several challenges are faced by an insider action researcher. During the process of interviewing, the researcher may make more assumptions than an outsider who is ignorant of the situation. This may compromise the outcome of the research. The insider may sometimes end up writing a report on what he or she thinks which may not be the exact reflection of what is on the ground. An insider also finds it difficult to get relevant data as he or she may be denied deeper access, which may not be the case with the outsider. He or she may sometimes find it hard to ask some questions as most of the people in the organization might be his or her friends (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).
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Roths and Colleagues (2004) explain that augmenting one's normal organizational membership roles with the research project enterprise can be awkward and difficult, and may also become overwhelming and confusing. One is likely to experience role conflict in an attempt to maintain a full organizational role and research enterprise simultaneously. The organizational membership role may sometimes require someone's active commitment, while the research project role may also demand a more theoretic, detached, neutral, and objective observer position. This conflict may make one experience detachment in roles. This is where one starts feeling as though he or she is an outsider in both roles (Adler & Adler 1987).
One organizational relationship is basically enmeshed and lodged in a network of affiliations of membership, as he or she has continued to be an active participant in the organization. These research ties and friendships may vary in terms of character, such as being open to being restrictive. This may affect the accuracy of data collected (Roth & Shani 2007). Another major challenge is a decrease in the performance of a member. This is because the insider action researcher may be forced to reduce his or her time to do the study. Therefore, the member ends up giving his or her organizational role lesser time, thus reducing performance. In most cases, this may bring conflict between the researcher and his or her boss in the organization. Reduced performance may also result from fatigue due to additional roles.
As Coghlan and Bannnick (2010) explain in their book, an insider action researcher may sometimes end up conversing with organizations members rather than interviewing them. Times for interviews might turn to be times for story-telling. This is mostly a result of one's closeness to his or her workmates (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).
Access can be referred to as the ability to get to the organization and to be allowed to carry out research. Since one is already a member of the company, he or she is considered to have primary access. While one has primary access, he or she may or may not have secondary access, i.e. he or she may or may not have an access to some specific sections of the organization, which may be relevant to the research. This is normally true where the organization is not committed to self-study in action.
An insider researcher may not be allowed access to some departments and hierarchical areas which might be restricted to privileged information. Definitely, the status of the researcher in the organization has a large impact on access to some parts of the organization. Only researchers with higher ranks in the organization may be easily allowed to access many informal sections of the organization (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).
Negotiating access with one's superiors might be a tricky undertaking, particularly if the research enterprise aims only at good work. It normally raises many questions as to the different requirements which must be accomplished through the research. An insider action researcher normally has very limited access to some specific parts of the organization as compared to the outsider. This is partly because many organizations do not want their workers to know certain information. However, they might have no problem when such information is known to the outsiders.
In conclusion, secondary access and role duality tend to be organizationally dependent and research enterprise-specific while pre-understanding is not directly linked to the quadrant schema (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).
Politics of Researching One Own Organization
Obviously, any form of a research project in any given organization has its own political dynamics. Forces of politics can undermine research undertakings and prevent planned changes. Getting access, data acquisition, dissemination, and publishing of reports are normally intensely acts of politics. For instance, diagnosis as a process in a research project is not always a neutral act. It rarely affects the organization's stakeholders. Some stakeholders may end up benefiting while others are harmed as the process of diagnosis may expose some member's performance weaknesses (Moore 2007).
Applying judgments to certain issues may pose political implications within the organization. Insider action researchers may sometimes find it difficult to take required actions on their research projects due to fear that such actions may negatively touch on their superiors, thus posing great threats to their jobs. Some will go as far as writing discriminatory reports about their findings, sparing the top management (Roth & Shani 2007).
Another major political challenge is the fact that most of the insider action research enterprises are sponsored by the organizations themselves. This makes it very rare for the outcomes of the research to be against the administration of the organization (Moore 2007). All in all, undertaking an insider action research project is political and the researcher needs to know how to manage his or her peers, colleagues, and superiors to minimize the influence of politics in the final contents of the report (Coghlan & Brannick 2010).