Action Research approach to introducing and maintaining change momentum

By Daniel Edwards


Over two thirds of individuals involved with change will experience failure. Much of this failure is related to the need to engage and motivate others around the change agenda in terms of ’what’s in it for me, what level of pain will it cause me, do I believe and trust that my discretionary effort and goodwill will produce benefits for me and my team…’

The answers to these questions are often determined by the conversations of people who are having change imposed on them from above. The results, views and emotions expressed in these conversations can heavily dictate how people engage with and support change, or decide to adopt a passive apathetic approach to keep doing what they are doing in the belief that eventually the change programme will either run into difficulties or run out of energy.

In order to combat apathy and ‘change fatigue’ organizations are having to think differently about implementing change – the days of the change ‘hero’ are numbered. The Action Research technique employed by Crelos seeks to harness the power of the people impacted by change. Action Research is carried out in real-world circumstances and involves close and open communication among the people involved. Richard Winter (1996) lists a number of principles:

  • Make sure that the relevant people (from senior stakeholders down) have been involved and consulted to agree a common understanding of why, what and who will be involved in the change.
  • Everyone involved in the change understands the principles underpinning the change and what the anticipated outcomes and benefits are.
  • Use the power of the rumour mill and water tower conversations to support rather than undermine the change agenda – give people information and permission to talk to each other and uncover concerns, issues and critical information that will inform the change agenda.
  • All participants must be allowed to influence the work, and the wishes of those who do not wish to participate must be respected.
  • The development of the work must remain visible and open to suggestions from others.


This inclusive, talking about change agenda naturally follows into a co-ordinated approach, where success is determined by many people doing many things slightly differently. This has a greater chance of success because more people have invested personal effort, enthusiasm and action to behave in a different way to make change happen