Conducting Research Within an Organization

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    The following guidelines assume that you have already carefully developed a research plan and are getting ready to collect information within an organization. Ideally, you developed the research plan in a highly collaborative manner with a Project Team that includes some members of the organization. The organization might be a team, department, or overall organization. You might be doing research as part of an overall organizational evaluation or as a consultant doing the Discovery Phase of consulting.

    Announce Data Collection to Members of the Organization

    To ensure a highly participative collection, it is critical that it maintains the ongoing commitment and ownership of its participants. Probably the most critical point in which to start cultivating that kind of buy-in is when first announcing the data collection. The announcement must be done carefully to help participants quickly realize and accept the need for the collection– so that they do not react that it is, for example, a deeply intrusive evaluation of their personal performance. Here are some suggestions to consider.

    1. The Chief Executive Office and a Board member should announce the data collection to the employees. They should mention:

    • Its purpose and benefits
    • How the employees are expected to participate in it
    • When they will get the results of it
    • How they can share their ongoing feedback about how its results will be implemented
    • The members of the Project Team, especially the members of the organization
    • A primary contact person, if they have any further questions

    Special care should be given to ensure sufficient time for reactions, questions, and suggestions.

    2. Accompany the announcement with an official memo. The memo should soon follow the announcement and be signed by upper management. It should reiterate the information shared during the announcement.

    Prepare Participants Before Data Collection

    Carefully prepare those who will be providing data — you should not start simply by asking them for input. Consider the following guidelines.

    1. Management should introduce the researcher(s) to the organization.
    One of the most powerful ways to do this introduction is in a group, for example, in an employee meeting. The introduction should include the researcher’s description of how the information will be collected, along with any terms of confidentiality. Include time for their questions and suggestions.

    2. Tell participants what is expected of them during the collection.
    Explain how information will be collected, and when and how they can participate. Mention any pre-work that would be useful for them to undertake and any topics or activities that they should think about before participating in the collection.

    3. Contact each participant before conducting any interviews.
    Interviews can be a rather personal way to get useful information. It helps a great deal if the interviewer calls each participant before the actual interview in order to introduce themselves, verify the timing of the upcoming interview, and understand if the participant has any questions.

    4. Review useful organizational documentation before contacting anyone.
    The review of documentation is a major form of data collection. The researcher can learn a great deal about the organization from the documents. That understanding is an advantage because participants soon realize that the researcher already knows a great deal about the organization. See How to Review Documentation.

    If You Encounter Questionable or Illegal Practices

    See a video about principles for successful consulting, defining “success”, principles for ethical consulting, managing risks and liabilities, and knowing when to leave. From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    Occasionally, a researcher uncovers organizational activities that seem immoral, for example, a violation of your professional standards and those in society, significant lies in the workplace or intentionally withholding very useful information from others. You might even encounter activities that are illegal, such as misappropriation of funds, fraud, theft, or violation of employment laws. This video shares guidelines for how to deal with those kinds of situations.

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Planning Business Research

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