Action research is “a change process based on the systematic collection of data and then selection of a change action based on what the analyzed data indicate.”
The process consists of five steps: diagnosis, analysis, feedback, action, and evaluation. These steps closely parallel the scientific method.
Diagnosis begins by gathering information about problems, concerns, and needed changes from members of the organization.
Analysis of information is synthesized into primary concerns, problem areas, and possible actions. Action research includes extensive involvement of the people who will be involved in the change program.
Feedback requires sharing with employees what has been found from steps one and two and the development of a plan for the change.
Action is the step where the change agent and employees set into motion specific actions to correct the problems that were identified.
Evaluation is the final step to assess the action plan’s effectiveness. Using the initial data gathered as a benchmark, any subsequent changes can be compared and evaluated.
Action research provides at least two specific benefits for an organization.
First, it is problem-focused. The change agent objectively looks for problems and the type of problem determines the type of change of action.
Second, resistance to change is reduced. Once employees have actively participated in the feedback stage, the change process typically takes on a momentum of its own.