An action study of the relationship between a consultant and an organisation
The thesis is a qualitative case study based on a joint action research project involving
a university department and an industrial organisation. The project was designed to
help the organisation solve a strategic problem, while simultaneously contributing to
knowledge about effective organisational intervention. The author acted as consultant
and applied researcher. The project was prematurely terminated by the organisation.
Two complementary descriptions of the project are presented, The first is a detached
factual account of events. These are analysed using theories of intervention, consultancy
and planned change.
The second description is a record of the author's personal experience and the reflective
process through which he learned from that experience. Out of this data a grounded
model of the consultant-client relationship is developed.
The model describes two behavioural strategies for managing the experienced uncertainty
in the relationship; provisioning and protecting. Both function to make the situation
feel more within the individual's control. Where experienced uncertainty becomes
intolerable, consultant and client initiate escalating protective cycles to maintain
feelings of confidence.
The thesis also describes a number of methodologies that were developed for handling
qualitative data. These are placed into a conceptual framework. The framework is
an epistemology of experiential learning which, in describing a more reliable approach
to learning from experience, also describes a systematic process of experiential research.
The epistemiology is based on an understanding of the ways in which grounded concepts
are generated, organised into a pattern model of explanation, and utilised in action.
The thesis format is designed to enable readers to identify and satisfy a range of learning
objectives. In particular, it provides the opportunity for readers to apply the methodologies
to understanding their own experience as they read the thesis. The thesis can, therefore,
be used not only for academic reference, but also for training purposes.