In 2017 I embarked on a practitioner based doctorate in organisational change. I wanted to explore how a change practitioner can be really successful at making change happen.
I’m well into the process now – there have been lots of twists and turns both in terms of focus and approach. I love the approach so much that it has seeped into my change and coaching practice. It has started to change me too!
What is this approach? Well – it’s called “Action Research”. It is a collaborative form of qualitative research – we research “with” people, not “on” them, and we recognise that we live very subjective lives, with all sorts of influences. To understand how we might affect change, we need to understand that subjectivity and those influences, to appreciate the best of us and take action to bring that best to life.
There is a reason why the word “Action” appears in this – we use cycles of research, the kinds of cycles that anyone working in innovation, agile or design thinking will be familiar with. We act, observe & reflect, adapt and plan for the next cycle.
Because the subjective life is so relevant to this kind of research, we need to go past the logical and literal to work out what is really going on. This is the bit I love the most – we can use all sorts of tools to discover – dialogue, storytelling, art, pottery, journaling, connecting in nature. And we pay attention to more than what our minds are telling us – we attend to our emotions and bodies too – all of this, is data when exploring the subjective.
I started off exploring how one becomes a better change practitioner and it very quickly turned into how do I become one – where better to start in an exploration of the subjective in organisations with my own subjective experience and patterns! I have found myself drawn into lots of unexpected themes, such as;
- Voice and speaking up; Presence and showing up; Agency and stepping up
- Being a woman in relationship, community and work; Understanding more about what operating in gendered environments means to men too
- An approach to personal change, bring together the whole self – mind, emotion and body in action together
- Seeing the positive in ourselves, being compassionate as well as honest to bring that positive self out.
- The interconnection between our personal experiences and what happens in organisations, and what we as leaders can do to create environments that foster change and brings out the best in people.
These themes continuously evolve, and even more so as I am inquiring with others now. My research going forward is a combination of first person inquiry into my own experience and “co-inquiring” with others, either one to one, in small groups and large groups.
My current phase of co-inquiry involves sharing stories and reflections that relate to the themes above with people – to notice what we have in common and the differences we have too. From those stories and reflections to explore different ways of understanding them and possibly reframing our understanding of them. And from that, exploring what actions we might take, what things we might attend to next. Some of my sessions are one off sessions, and some are a series of sessions – with the series, we can explore what has happened, reflected on, changed and not changed since the last time, and make sense of all of that.
If you’re interested in co-inquiring with me, or for people in your organisation to have the opportunity to develop through co-inquiry, just get in touch.