Across the world nations are struggling to find their way back to some kind of ‘new normal’. But they cannot do it by announcing a grand plan and then implementing it. They are dealing with an unpredictable opponent: they don’t know how we the public or the virus will respond as they lift restrictions. So from the UK Government we hear that the ‘road map’ is to take ‘baby steps’, review what happens and move forward when we can without causing a new ‘spike’.
We are told we are in uncharted territory and we are not used to planning this way. And yet we have had a well-developed methodology for managing change in this way for nearly 100 years. Action Research was developed by Kurt Lewin in the 1920s as a way of dealing with change in circumstances where the complex system being changed is unpredictable. Over the past century many forms of action research have been developed but at their heart is a four-stage action research cycle: plan, act, research (observe, study the results) and reflect.
First you create a plan to achieve a goal and then you take the first actions to implement the plan. Then, before taking the next step, you undertake research to see what the results of your actions have been. You then reflect on what has been achieved and plan the next actions accordingly. This becomes an iterative process, moving through a series of action research cycles so that over time a flexible plan is implemented that deals with the complexities of the real world as they become apparent.
For the past 30 years the Bayswater Institute has been helping clients of all kinds manage change processes by using action research. This is particularly pertinent now because as the UK government adopts its own version of action research, knowingly or not, so organisations of all kinds are going to have to adopt some form of action research as they try to come out of lockdown and resume a form of normal activity.
Our aim it to use our experience of action research to help organisations adopt this approach to planning. The next posts will be on different aspects of following an action research approach. If you want help with any aspect of the approach please let us know and we will build it into future posts.