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Conducting Research Within an Organization

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
AField Guide to Nonprofit Program Design, Marketing and Evaluation

Sections of This Topic Include

Description
Announce Data Collection to Members of the Organization
Prepare Participants Before Data Collection
If You Encounter Questionable or Illegal Practices

Also consider
Related Library Topics
There Is No Hope Of Doing Perfect Research
Creating and Implementing Your Data Collection Plan


Description

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 from 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 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

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Planning Business Research. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Business Planning Blog
Library's Building a Business Blog
Library's Strategic Planning Blog


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