French and Bell have defined action research as follows:
“Action research is the process of systematically collecting research data about an ongoing system relative to some objective, goal or need of that system, feeding these data back into the system, taking action by altering selected variables within the system based both on the data and on hypothesis, and evaluating the results of actions by collecting more data”.
Thus, action research refers to searching of actions with an objective to help the organisation achieve its goals. Action research involves continuous series of activities to be undertaken in the organisation to find a solution for the problem. Viewed from this perspective, action research is viewed as a process of OD. Various activities involved in action research process of OD are presented in Figure
It is clear from Figure 12.3 that action research model of OD has certain cyclical and continuous steps. It starts with the perception of the problem in the organisation. This sets stage for intervention by some behavioural consultant to diagnose the problem.
The consultant may be an internal or external one, but needs to be unbiased, realistic and objective in diagnosing the problem. Data collection is the first step in problem diagnosis. The required data may be collected either by interview method or questionnaire method or a combination of both. Once the data is collected, the consultant discusses these data with executives to diagnose the problem.
Having identified and diagnosed the problem, the next activity in the action research is to prepare the organisation for appropriate intervention techniques. Feedback based on data discussion is then made available to larger number of executives to solicit their comments on it. Then, a planned action is devised but is kept confined to a specific system only. Once the devised and suggested intervention action is implemented, it becomes necessary to evaluate its effectiveness.
In case, the intervention turns out to be ineffective, again data is collected discussed and revised action or intervention is searched out, carried out and evaluated. This process goes on and on till the organizational goal is achieved effectively.