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Qualitative Management Research.

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

Qualitative Management Research Qualitative management research is an often uncertain and emergent undertaking which is just as complex as management it self. Accordingly, the inexperienced researcher needs some reference points to help them balance practical worth with academic rigor. It can be claimed that recent works have taken a qualitative and ethnographic approach, using extensive interviewing and observation, to the study of management. These examples will all be more or less different, and some might say they are unique. What all of these examples and stories have in common is that they attempt to approach the complexity of a particular entrepreneurial setting as an ongoing process, as a process of becoming. Every managerial attempt is written on a daily basis, with many actors on multiple scenes simultaneously searching to move existing realities through creative actions into new worlds. Management is a creative process enacted through everyday practices: It is never done, and always going on, a journey more with surprises than with predictable patterns. As such, every managerial endeavor follows and writes its own story. This leaves management as a young academic discipline with the huge task of deciding how to "organize" its knowledge of these "local complexities." The question is how to develop qualitative research activities in terms of paradigmatic conceptions, methodological practices, and ways of theorizing that match the complexity and uniqueness of entrepreneurial endeavors. In this paper I will discuss how such process studies can be conceived and what are the drawbacks of qualitative research. Departing from a discussion of management as a process and embedding this concept within a paradigm of "becoming," we explore the methodological implications by addressing epistemological reflections, ways of theorizing, and methodological practices such as generating, analyzing, interpreting, and writing up data.

Middle

Consequently, for the purposes of this work, two types of document were identified: primary documentary data produced by the case organisations; and primary documentary data produced about the sector. Questionnaires - In addition to questionnaires used during the preliminary fieldwork, a survey was conducted into mission and vision statements in the electricity supply industry. All three surveys were based on the use of semi-structured questionnaires which contained mainly open-ended questions. This approach was intended to allow respondents to reply 'in their own terms' 5 without predetermining the content of their contribution. It has been argued that data collected in this way is affected by: the respondent's ability to communicate in writing; the inability to probe or review contributions; and the reliance on respondents providing full replies (Patton, 1980). However, each survey was followed up with written requests for information and telephone requests for responses or for the clarification of contributions It has been suggested that: "There are no formal, universal rules to follow in analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating qualitative data"6. However, it has also been argued that: "We should continue to be concerned with producing texts that ex plicate how we claim to know what we know"7. Indeed, it appears that one of the potential dangers of adopting a predominantly qualitative research approach would lie in not explaining how the researcher turned the raw data into findings. The research had an epistemological leaning towards inductivism, with the consequent broadly inductive approach to analysis meaning that: "... the patterns, themes, and categories of analysis come from the data; they emerge out of the data rather than being imposed on them prior to data collection and analysis"8.

Conclusion

These individual data collection instruments have been reviewed critically and the extensive triangulation used to synthesise multiple views and clarify meanings has been described. We have outlined the combination of intuition, data saturation, time, and contextual changes which were used to bring the fieldwork to a close. It has also explained the iterative and continuous process of data analysis and interpretation. In particular, it has argued that although the research was inductive by nature, the focus of the research was maintained through the generation of research propositions and questions from the main literature review and initial fieldwork. Furthermore, the overall research strategy was critically examined and defended in terms of the confirmability, dependability, credibility and transferability of method and findings. However, this examination was undertaken in terms appropriate for the research philosophy adopted and not in terms imposed by other philosophies. Finally, several outputs from the research have been high lighted including published articles. The study supported the contention that: "Interpretive studies of change in complex business organisations are relatively rare"10. In view of the apparent lack of research precedent (both of the subject and the cases) the research strategy incorporated a 'controlled opportunism'11 to data collection. Furthermore, although the research was based in inductive and grounded theory it did not ignore existing theory (see, for example, Strauss and Corbin, 1994). Indeed, the research presented an opportunity for 'theory elaboration'12 whereby extant change management theories could be developed in apparently novel settings. Additionally, the iterative and comparative nature of the research strategy was also important in conducting a more thorough and transferable interrogation of the research propositions and questions. Ultimately, conducting the chosen research project was hugely rewarding and, despite the challenging, un certain and emergent nature of qualitative management research, we would encourage others to follow suit.

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