Shell Canada Ltd is a petroleum company in Canada concerned mainly with producing natural gas, natural gas liquids, sulphur and bitumen. A leading manufacturer, distributor and marketer of refined petroleum products, Shell has corporate goals of leadership in profitability, profitable growth and commitment to sustainable growth, focus is also put onto operational excellence and the health and safety of their employees. Keen on recruiting the best people possible from Universities across Canada, Shell Canada’s hiring practice is based on the basis of merit.
Recent company Human Resources efforts have been aimed at promoting cultural and ethnic diversity within the company, to include more employees of differing ethnic backgrounds. Research Problem What impact does diversity have on organizational and group performance? Action Research – Method Action research is unique in that it pursues action and research simultaneously. Where often research focuses on controlling variables and sterilizing data collection environments, this family of methodologies encourages change and understanding.
Action research is a structured spiral process, involving both the researcher and the participants in the development of findings and directions for research. Generally, an action research project involves a spiral process made up of continuous four step cycles. Reconnaissance, the first step, involves understanding the group’s problem and formalizing a problem statement. The planning stage devises an intervention strategy. Essentially, an intervention is an alteration to the environment that seeks to solve the problem. Step three, the action stage, implements the intervention strategy.
Concluding the spiral is a reflection of the effect of the intervention, and a reevaluation of the state of the initial problem. Once the reevaluation takes place, the spiral continues. Since the intervention will have changed the environment, a fresh reconnaissance is required. Thus, the cycle is not continuous but spiraling since methods are refined as understanding deepens. The intervention continues to be tailored to suit the needs of the group as they change. Constant observation and analysis takes place, considering changes that occur before, during, and after the process.
Once the desired improvements are achieved, a final evaluation takes place. An investigation of the characteristics of action research yields some interesting results. Many of the positive aspects of action research include: allowances for consideration of context and its affects on judgement, opportunities for refinement and reflection throughout the process, encouraged active participation, the use of all creative resources to address the issues, and since the participants are active throughout continuous cycles, they are personally motivated to get involved and find the best solution.
This sense of ownership lends itself to results that are more genuine. It provides a structured but true-to-life context for the application of previous research. Action Research at Shell Canada Ltd. Shell Canada seeks to measure how diversity impacts group performance in order to determine if their current hiring policy is the optimal option to implement. This task can be achieved by using action research, which is a step-by-step, spiralling approach.
The steps involved are the exploration and development of a problem statement, planning and intervention using a predetermined strategy, negotiation and discussion between affected parties, implementation, and finally, reflection and re-evaluation of the initial problem. In the first stage, researchers at Shell would take steps to understand the problem statement proposed earlier and clearly identify all of the aspects it encompasses.
Since the issue at hand is how diversity impacts group performance, researchers need to identify the specific variables or criteria they need to evaluate in order to find the answer to their question. In this case, the efficiency of the group is one of the sub-components chosen to be of focus on measuring under the primary variable of performance. With this component clearly identified, the second stage is the development of a plan to produce an plan to answer to our research question.
The most appropriate route would entail the creation of two groups, one composed of a well-diversified mix of employees, while the other acting as a homogenized control group. By observing the two teams in the exact same setting while they perform the exact same duties, tasks, etc, researchers will be able to measure efficiency through the evaluation of time management skills. The more efficient group will complete tasks such as generating ideas, reaching decisions, adjusting to unexpected circumstances, and successfully finalizing the presented project, all in a shorter period of time.
By creating two separate groups, researchers will be able to measure the impact diversity has on group dynamics and collaboration, and thus performance at the group and organizational level. The third stage of action research is the actual implementation of the plan that was devised in the second stage. This step would involve the creation and placement of our two research groups at the Athabasca Oil Sands Project Site. The effectiveness of the group will be measured as every step of the project is carefully timed for further analysis.
After the project is completed, we enter the fourth stage of reflective learning where the groups are interviewed to provide feedback on how efficient they perceived themselves to be. The strategy, or plan, devised in the second stage will be assessed, and its effects evaluated. In this last stage of action research, critical analysis of the information collected will take place in order to determine whether or not the research question has been answered. In our case, performance is far too broad a term and it incorporates more than just efficiency measured by time.
The spiralling process of action research would be renewed as another criteria, such as creativity, is measured within the same four-step construct as before. The spiral effect of action research continues on until the research question is answered in the most comprehensive way possible. In summary, action research is a spiralling method that is continuously refined as understanding deepens. Shell researchers and employees must not sit back after one cycle and believe that the problem has been solved.
Instead, they must assess the results, re-evaluate the problem statement, and repeat the cycle if any additional components need to be researched. In this case, action research will identify the best route to implement in order for shell to create an efficient and positive work environment.
Earl-Slater, Alan. 2002. The superiority of action research?. British Journal of Critical Governance. 7 (2), 132-135. Shell Canada Ltd. (n. d) About Shell. Retrieved September 21, 2003.