Organization development and change through multi-method action research

G. Letens, E. M. Van Aken, J. A. Farris, A. Heene, J. Leysen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The brutal fact that about 70% of change initiatives fail clearly demonstrates that more research is needed to develop knowledge and guidelines to support organization development and change. According to various action researchers, this also provides evidence that the dominant approach of positivist science has failed to generate 'knowledge for use' within this field. Action Research (AR) aims to complement positive science by focusing on complex real life problems, participation, joint-meaning construction and workable solutions: The desired results of AR are solutions to immediate problems and, equally important, learning from both intended and unintended outcomes of the change. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how principles of various AR methodologies have been important to support the creation of a learning organization within a technical support unit of the Belgian Armed Forces. Such an evolutionary multimethod approach adds new insights to the AR methodology: in low maturity environments it seems important to systematically increase both rigor and level of inquiry as a function of first, the developed managerial competences of those involved in the research, and second, the shift in the culture of the organization that supports public testing of assumptions. After two years of organization development supported by various methods of AR, the unit went through a restructuring effort that actively involved more than 150 people and resulted in a reduction from 1550 to a 1000 personnel.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2008
Event29th Annual National Conference of the American Society for Engineering Management 2008, ASEM 2008 - West Point, NY, United States
Duration: Nov 12 2008Nov 15 2008


Conference29th Annual National Conference of the American Society for Engineering Management 2008, ASEM 2008
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWest Point, NY


  • Action research
  • Organization development and change
  • Public management


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