Implementing organizational change using action learning and action research in an Asian setting

Information Age Publishing
Publication Type:
Action Research: Models, Methods, and Examples, 2014, 1, pp. 131 - 152
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In this chapter I will describe an action research (AR) study that I used to develop local managers in a multinational company where I was a senior manager and had taken over responsibility for managing a newly set up global engineering operation. My study also contributed to completing a PhD thesis with the University of South Australia. I have structured the chapter as follows: I have started with a description of the context for my study and the reasons why the problem addressed in the study was important to the organisation where it was carried out, to me, and to the six managers reporting to me who became my co-researchers in the study. I will explain why I selected the action research model that I used it in my study. I will then introduce my Australian doctoral supervisors, the Singaporean managers who were involved as co-researchers as well three other Singaporean managers, who were also doctoral candidates and who were being supervised by the same supervisors, with whom I formed an action learning set during the study. The role played by a virtual action learning set that I formed with an international group of action researchers will also be explained. I will then describe the setting which was a Japanese company, where the study took place. This will be followed by a description of the research carried out. I will follow this up with insights from my study. I will close the chapter with a reflection on how my study could have been done differently as I have now gained experience as an academic and supervisor of doctoral students who are using action research. The AR study described in this chapter was carried out in a large engineering centre of a Japanese multinational company in Singapore, which wanted to reduce its cost of operations significantly for the organisation to stay profitable (in fact, survive) while at the same time not sacrificing the quality of its products and services. I was appointed as the head of this centre and wanted to use innovative approaches to achieve the goals of the organisation with the help of young managers who were reporting to me. I also saw this as an opportunity to help these managers develop by solving real challenging problems at the workplace. The Japanese culture did not believe in sending of managers to MBA programs but in developing their capabilities in-house. I had also recently enrolled in a PhD program started in Singapore by an Australian university aimed at practising managers. We were the first cohort of PhD students enrolled in this program
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