The Manager – Researcher relationship

Information gathering is an integral part of any manager’s job. So it is not surprising that many managers do their own research at least part of the time. The lower a manager is in the decision making hierarchy the more likely he/she is to do most of her or his own research. When managers lack either research time or talent, they may delegate the task to a staff assistant or a research specialist.

This delegation of responsibility can result in greater synergy especially if the research decision driven and each party make a full contribution to the joint venture. However, the separation of research user from research conductor can pose problems in data
analysis, interpretation, conclusion finding and recommendations. This is why businesses that regularly use outside research specialists often use the same firm repeatedly: knowledge of the company, its people and its processes is as critical on knowledge of the decision-making dilemma.

In an organizational setting, the researcher should look on the manager as a client. An effective working relationship between researcher and manager is not achieved unless both fulfill their respective obligations and several critical barriers are overcome.

1.Manager-Researcher Contribution
The obligations of mangers are to specify their problems and provide researchers with adequate background information and access to company information gatekeepers. It is usually more effective if managers state their problems in terms of the decision choices they must make rather than specify the information they think they need. If this is done, both manager and researcher can jointly decide what information is needed.

Meru manufacturer’s customer affairs manager Beldina Juma as a staff rather than a line manager may need assistance from managers with line responsibilities to define those plausible actions that could affect post purchase service. She has clearly been charged with the responsibility to execute the customer satisfaction study, but she does not have authority to implement conclusions affecting for example, product engineering, product manufacture or distributor relationships. Thus she needs to clarify with those line managers what courses of action might be taken to correct identified problems. If, however, dissatisfaction is arising because of how customers with questions are treated when interacting with the customer affair staff, Beldina has direct line authority to determine plausible actions to correct such problems within her own domain.

Researchers also have obligations. Organizations expect them to develop a creative research design that will provide answers to important business questions. Not only should researchers provide data analyzed in terms of the problems specified, but they also should point out the implications that flow from the results. In the process, conflict may arise between what the decision maker wants and what the researcher can provide or thinks should be provided. The decision maker wants certainity and simple explicit recommendations, while the researcher often can offer only probabilities and hedged interpretations. This conflict is inherent in their
respective roles and has no simple resolution. However, a workable balance can usually be found in each person is sensitive to the demands and restrictions imposed on the other.

2. Manager-Researcher conflicts
Some conflicts between decision makers and researchers are traced to management’s limited exposure to research. Managers’ seldon have either formal training in research methodology or research expertise gained through experience. And, due to the explosive growth of research technology in recent years, a knowledge gap is developed between managers and research specialists as model building and more sophisticated investigative techniques have come into use. Thus the research specialist removes the manager from his or her comfort zone. The manager must now put his or her faith and sometimes career in the hands of research specialists and hope for the best.

In addition, managers often see research people on threats to their personal status. Managers will view management on the domain of the ‘intuitive artist’ who is the master of this area. They may believe a request for research assistance implies they are inadequate to the task. These fears are often justified. The researcher’s function is to test old ideas as well as new ones. To the insecure manager, the researcher is a potential rival.

The researcher will inevitable have to consider the corporate culture and political situations that develop in any Organization. Members strive to maintain their niches and may seek ascendancy over their colleagues. Coalitions form and people engage in various self-serving activities, both overt and covert. As a result, research is blocked or the findings or objectives of the research are
distorted for an individual’s self-serving purpose. To allow one’s operations to be probed with a critical eye maybe to invite trouble from others competing for promotion, resources or other forms of organizational power.

A fourth source of stress for researchers is their frequent isolations from managers. Researchers draw back into their speciality and talk among themselves. Management’s lack of understanding of research techniques compounds this problem. The research department can become isolated; reducing the effectiveness of conclusions a researcher may draw from research findings.
These problems have caused some people to advocate the use of a research generalist: such a person would head the research activity, help managers detail their research needs, and translate these needs into research problems. S/he also would facilitate the flow of information between manager and researcher that is so important for bringing the researcher into the decision-making

Decision-driven Research
Business research has an inherent value to the extent that it helps management make better decisions. Interesting information about consumers, employees or competitors might be pleasant to have, but its value is limited if the information cannot be applied to a critical decision. If a study does not help management select more efficient, less risky, or more profitable alternatives than otherwise would be the case, its use should be questioned. The important point is that applied research in a business environment finds its justification in the contribution it makes to the decision maker’s task and to the bottom line.

Types of research
Classification of Research
In the fields of general education, health education, physical education, recreation, etc there exists different kinds of problems, consequently, different types of research are used to solve these problems. Research in general can be classified or categorized in many ways. The following are the basic modes of classification:

  • The field of study in which the research is conducted. i.e. discipline; for example educational research, sociological research, marketing research etc
  • The place where the research is conducted. Hence we talk in forms of field research, laboratory research, community research etc.
  • Application of the research – the way/mode in which the findings of the research will be used eg, Action research, service research etc
  • Purpose of the research ie basic research, action research, applied research and evaluation research.
  • By methods of analysis, ie, descriptive research and empirical research
  • Character of data collected ie qualitative research and quantitive research.
  • Procedure/Design used – experimental research, survey research etc.

Types of Research
1. Basic research
It is also referred to as pure or fundamental research. It is a type of research which is characterized by a desire to know or to expound the frontiers of knowledge. It is research based on the creation of new knowledge. It is mainly theoretical and for advancement of knowledge. Basic researchers are interested in deriving scientific knowledge which will be a broad base for further research. The main purpose for conducting this research is to generate more information and understanding the phenomena that operate in a situation. The aim is not usually to apply findings, to solve an immediate problem but rather to understand more about a certain phenomena and expound that knowledge. Another focus of basic research is to generate new knowledge in order to refine or expand existing theories. However, there is no consideration of the practical applications of the findings to actual problems or situations. Such research does however often lead to further research of the practical nature and may infact provide the very basis of this further research.

Applied Research
The type of research which is conducted for purpose of improving present practice, normally applied research is conducted for the purposes of applying or testing theory and evaluating its usefulness in solving problems. Applied research provides data to support theory or suggest the development of new theories. It is the research done with the intention of applying the results of its findings to solve specific problems, currently being experienced in an Organization.

Action Research
This is a small scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such interventions. Action research is normally situational and it is concerned with diagnosing a problem in a specific context and attempting to solve it in that context. Normally action research is conducted with the primary intention of solving a specific, immediate and concrete problem in a local setting. Action research is not concerned with whether the results of the study are generalized to other settings, since its major goal is to seek a solution to a given problem. Action research is limited in its contribution to theory, but it is useful because it provides answers to problems that cannot wait for theoretical solutions.

Descriptive Research
A descriptive study is undertaken in order to ascertain and be able to describe the characteristics of variables in a situation. Quite often descriptive studies are undertaken in organizations in order to learn about and describe characteristics of employees. Eg Education level, job status, length of service etc The most prevalent method of gathering information in a descriptive study is the questionnaire.
Others include: interviews, job analysis, documentary analysis etc. Descriptive statistics such as the mean, standard, deviation, frequencies, percentages are used in the analysis of descriptive research.

Correlational Research
Correlation research is descriptive in that it cannot presume a cause-and-effect relationship. It can only establish that there is an association between two or more traits or performance. This involves collecting data to determine whether a relationship exists between two or more quantifiable variables. The main purpose of correlation research is to describe the nature of the
relationship between the two variables. Correlational research helps in identifying the magnitude if the relationship.
Many techniques have been deviced to provide us with numerical representations of such relationships and these are known as measures of association. The most commonly used measures of association are two:

• Pearson’s product moment of coefficients.
• Spearman’s rank order correlation.

Correlational techniques are generally intended to answer 3 questions:
1. Is there a relationship between the two variables?
2. If the answer is Yes, what is the direction of the relationship (nature of relationship) (- or +)
3. What is the magnitude of the relationship?

Casual Research
A casual study is one which is done to establish a definative ‘cause’ ‘effect’ relationship among variables. In this type of research, the researcher is keen to delineating one or more factors that are certainly causing the problem. The intention of the researcher conducting a casual study is to be able to state that variable X cause’s variable Y to change. A casual study is more effective in
a situation where the researcher has already identified the cause of the problem. However, this type of a design is limiting in that quite often, especially in an Organization, there are a multiple cases of a problem which are linked to many factors ie Does a payrise cause higher productivity?

Historical Research
This is the systematic and objective location and synthesis of evidence in order to establish facts and draw conclusions about past events. The act of historical research involves the identification and limitation of a problem of an area of study which is based on past events. The researcher aims to:

• Locate as many pertinent sources of information as possible concerning the specific problem.
• Then analyze the information to ascertain its authenticity and accuracy, and then be able to use it to generalize on future occurrences.

Historical research is important because:

  • It enables solutions to contemporary problems to be solved in the past.
  • Historical research throws light on present and future trends.
  • Historical research allows for the revelation of data in relation to select hypothesis, theories and generalizations that are presently held about the past.

Ability of history to employ the past, to predict the future and to use the present to explain the past gives historical research a dual and unique quality which makes is exceptionally useful for all types of scholarly study and research.

Experimental Research
In experimental research, the investigator deliberately controls and manipulates the conditions which determine the events to which he is interested. It involves making a change in the value of one variable (the independent variable) and observing the effect of that change on another variable (the dependent variable). In experimental design, the independent variable is a stimulus ie, it is stimulated while the dependent variable is responsive. If all extraneous factors can be successfully controlled then the researcher can presume that changes in the dependent variable are due to the independent variable.

Longitudinal Studies
These are designed to permit observations over an extended period. For example, analyses of newspaper editorials overtime. Three special type of longitudinal studies should be noted here:

  • Trend Studies: are those that study changes within some general population over time. Ie a series of opinion polls during the course of an election campaign, showing trends in the relative strengths and standing of different candidates.
  • Cohorot Studies: examine more specific subpopulations (cohorts) as they change overtime. Typically a cohort is an age group, such as those people born during the 1920s, people who got married in 1964, and so forth. An example of cohort study would be a series of national surveys, conducted perhaps every ten years, to the study the economic attitudes of the cohort born during the early 1960s. A sample of persons 20-25 years of age might be surveyed in 1970, another sample of those 30-35 years of age in 1980, and another sample of those 30-35 years of age in 1970, and another sample of those 40-45 years of age in 1990. Although the specific set of people studied in each of these surveys would be different, each sample would represent the survivors of the cohort born between 1960 and 1964
  • Panel Studies: are similar to trend and cohort studies except that the same set of people is studied each time. One example would be a voting study in which the same sample of voters are interviewed every month during an election campaign and asked for whom they intended to vote for. Such a study would not only make it possible to analyse overall  trends in voter preferences for different candidates, but would have the added advantage of showing the precise patterns of persistence and change in intention
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