Integrating action research and journey making during real-world organizational strategy development
Information systems (IS) researchers and practitioners have for some time now been advocating the use of Action Research as an appropriate means of undertaking work in the field of information systems (Checkland and Scholes, 1990; Mansell, 1991; Stowell and West, 1994; Baskerville and Wood-Harper, 1996,1998; Stowell, West and Stansfield, 1997; Checkland and Holwell, 1998, West and Stansfield, 2001; Mumford, 2001). Yet little has been written about the application of Action Research during the real-world development of organizational strategic plans, where an important aim of the Action Researcher is also the attainment of an academic qualification. A possible explanation for this may be the amount of controversy that still surrounds the theoretical principles (Cady and Caster, 2000) and the practice and application (Stowell et. al, 1997) of Action Research. In particular, Action Research has been criticised for producing research with little action or action with little research (Foster, 1972), lacking in the rigor of true scientific research (Cohen and Manion, 1980), lacking in validity of data (Baskerville and Wood-Harper, 1996), lacking in internal and external control (Merriam and Simpson, 1984) and likely to be a problematic research method for doctoral students (Eden and Huxham, 1993,1995,1996). This doctoral research programme has been set up to investigate two 'themes'. The first, of more research/academic interest, concerns the development and testing of a diagrammatic Action Research Approach that will help to ensure the delivery of valid/robust research results. Also, because most existing diagrams don't describe Action Research at a more useful lower 'micro' level (Lau, 1997). The second research theme, of more practical interest, concerns understanding what can happen when a 'novice' practitioner attempts to use Action Research and JOURNEY Making (Eden and Ackermann, 1998) to solve a real-world organizational strategic problem. To ensure that the research is seen as 'valid' Action Research, Checkland and Holwell's (1998) 'FMA' model is applied because "This is the intellectual structure which will lead to findings and research lessons being recognised as such. Without that declaration, it is difficult to see how the outcome of Action Research can be more than anecdotal" (p. 13-14).