Essential Skills for Management Research


Edited by: David Partington

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    Susan Baker lectures in marketing at Cranfield School of Management. Prior to academia, Susan pursued a ten-year career in services marketing in leisure retailing from which she gained experience on both client and agency sides of the business. She worked at senior management level in the UK and also in Germany. At Cranfield, Susan specializes in bringing learning from consumer marketing to organizations across all sectors. Her particular focus is on understanding consumer markets and she is co-director of the New Marketing Research Group which aims to understand the impact on marketing of the postmodern consumer. She firmly believes in the notion that a picture paints a thousand words, hence the appeal of laddering and mapping, and she has employed a means-end approach to understanding buyer behaviour across various product categories, among adults and young consumers.

    Robert Chia is Professor of Strategy and Organization at the School of Business and Economics, University of Exeter. He is the author of three books and a significant number of journal articles on organization theory and management and has presented numerous conference papers at the US Academy of Management, the British Academy of Management and other international conferences in management and organization studies. Robert holds a Masters degree (with distinction) in organizational analysis and behaviour and a PhD in organization studies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and has consulted with a number of international organizations and institutions including the International Federation of the Red Cross (Geneva), British Airways, BNFL, British Aerospace, Ciba-Geigy and Cathay Pacific Airlines.

    Prior to entering academia, he worked for 16 years in aircraft maintenance engineering, manufacturing management and human resource management and was group human resource manager of Metal Box Asia Pacific based in Singapore before he left to pursue an academic career. Since then he has remained actively engaged with the practitioner world of management, particularly through consultancy work and executive training and education. His main research interests revolve around the issues of world-views, modes of thought and their implications for strategic vision and foresight; complexity and creativity; contrasting East-West metaphysical attitudes; critical cultural studies and postmodernism.

    John Dickson is an independent management consultant, who undertook his doctorate at Cranfield School of Management. John's ethnographic study of enterprise in Papua New Guinea identified a new model for doing business in a rural community. His consulting work in strategy development, organizational change and marketing assists companies to become more effective by incorporating ‘soft’ issues such as culture with more traditional ‘hard’ issues of task and budget. John has consulted for international agencies such as UNICEF and UNHCR on the design and delivery of their business development programmes. He also has wide experience of the problems faced by growing businesses. As well as his work with local enterprise agencies in the UK, John frequently lectures on small business and entrepreneurship at the micro level.

    Colin Eden is Director of the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business, and is Professor of Management Science. He has written over 200 articles published in management, operational research and strategy journals. He has published seven books in the field of management science, managerial and organizational cognition, group decision support and strategy-making. His most recent book, with Fran Ackermann and entitled Making Strategy: The Journey of Strategic Management, introduces an attention to the strategy-making process and the role of qualitative modelling to a strategic management audience. Recently he has been a consultant to the senior management teams of, for example, Scottish Natural Heritage, Bombardier Inc., the Northern Ireland Office, Elsevier Science and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. As well as a continuing interest in strategic problem-solving and strategy-making, he is currently conducting research into strategic risk and the behaviour of disrupted and delayed complex projects.

    Keith Goffin is Professor of Innovation Management at Stuttgart Institute of Management and Technology (SIMT) in Germany and a visiting professor at Cranfield School of Management. He graduated with a first class honours degree in Physics in 1977 and subsequently obtained an MSc in Medical Physics. For 14 years he worked for the Medical Products Group of Hewlett-Packard, in a number of management roles in marketing and product support. Parallel to his management responsibilities, Keith researched the management of customer support and received his PhD in 1992. From 1995–2001 he was full-time member of the faculty at Cranfield, where he taught on both MBA and Executive Programmes. His main research interest is innovation management and he has published one book and over 80 reports, papers and articles. He has extensive experience of using repertory grid technique in, for example, studies of customer support, supplier management and new product development.

    Don Harris is Senior Research Fellow in Human Factors Engineering in the Human Factors Group at Cranfield School of Management. His principal teaching and research interests lie in the design and evaluation of flight deck control and display systems, accident investigation and analysis, and system safety. Until recently he was also an aircraft accident investigator (specializing in human factors) on call to the British Army Division of Army Aviation. Don has also worked in the safety assessment of helicopter operations for North Sea oil exploration and exploitation. Don is a professional member of the Ergonomics Society and the International Association of Applied Psychologists. He is Chairman of the International Conference Series on Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics. Don sits on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics, the International Journal of Cognition, Technology and Work and is also co-editor in chief of the academic journal Human Factors and Aerospace Safety.

    Alan Harrison is Professor of Operations and Logistics at Cranfield School of Management. After graduating in chemistry at Oxford University he followed a career in manufacturing industry with Procter & Gamble, BL and GEC. Having been converted to academic life, he joined Warwick Business School in 1986 as a senior research fellow studying the application of Japanese manufacturing methods to UK manufacturing. He completed his doctorate in enablers and inhibitors to material flow at Cranfield School of Management, which he joined in 1996. He is author of Just in Time Manufacturing in Perspective (Prentice Hall, 1992), joint author of Operations Management (2nd edition, Pitman, 1998) and author of Logistics Management and Strategy (Pearson Education, 2002).

    Alan has undertaken extensive research into supply chains in several sectors, including automotive, aerospace and grocery. He has extended his research base from applications of just in time to limitations of this approach, and his recent work has been concerned with developing capabilities for enhanced customer responsiveness. This has resulted in such publications as Creating the Agile Supply Chain (Institute of Logistics and Transport, 1999) and the establishment of the Agile Supply Chain Research Club at Cranfield, which has attracted some £850k in funds.

    Anne Sigismund Huff is a Professor in Strategic Management at the University of Colorado, Boulder who also holds a professorial appointment at Cranfield School of Management. She received an MA in Sociology and a PhD in Management from Northwestern University, and has been on the faculty at UCLA and the University of Illinois. Her research interests focus on strategic change, both as a dynamic process of interaction among firms and as a cognitive process affected by the interaction of individuals over time. She is the strategy editor for the book series Foundations in Organization Science (Sage Publications) and serves on the editorial boards of the Strategic Management Journal, the Journal of Management Studies, the British Journal of Management, Management Learning and the electronic journal, M@n@gement. In 1998–99 she was President of the Academy of Management, an international organization of over 11,000 scholars interested in management issues.

    Chris Huxham is Professor of Management and Director of Research in the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business. She has led an action research programme spanning more than 12 years that is concerned with the development of practice-oriented theory into the management of collaborative ventures. This involves her in working extensively with practitioners involved in partnerships and alliances. She takes a variety of roles in these interventions, including facilitator, awareness raiser, sounding board, policy adviser and participant. She has published extensively both on collaboration and on action research as a research methodology. She is editor of Creating Collaborative Advantage (Sage, 1996) and an Editorial Board member of Public Management Review. Chris graduated from the University of Sussex with a BSc in Mathematics, an MSc and DPhil in Operational Research.

    Kim James is a Chartered Psychologist. She obtained her PhD for research into the career development needs of senior executives. She has worked as a consultant in a wide range of organizations, including automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, insurance, banking and distributive companies, police, local authorities, the health service and utilities.

    Kim works with clients to assist their capacity for organization learning and change at both personal and organization levels; understanding organization dynamics can help organizations in transition and transformation in a very practical way. Her current interests include managing people through transition, personal development for leadership, women managers' development, organizational stress management, coaching and team consulting for strategic learning.

    At Cranfield School of Management, Kim has directed many public and in-house management development programmes as well as postgraduate teaching and supervision. She is the Director of the Research Methodology Course for PhD students researching at the School of Management. She is currently on the editorial boards of Management Learning and the Journal of Management Development.

    Mark Jenkins is Professor of Competitive Strategy and Director of the DBA programme at Cranfield School of Management. Prior to joining Cranfield he worked for the Lex Service Group and Massey Ferguson Tractors Ltd. His teaching focuses on the areas of competitive strategy, knowledge management and innovation. His consulting activities reflect these specializations where he has worked throughout Europe, the USA and in parts of the Far East and Middle East. In addition to his work at Cranfield he has been a visiting Professor in Strategic Management at the University of Colorado and has contributed to the MBA programme at Warwick Business School. He is currently researching the role of knowledge and innovation in the development of Formula One motorsport. He has published and presented a wide range of work in the areas of strategy and marketing. He is a founding editor of the Journal of Marketing Practice, a member of the editorial review board for the European Journal of Marketing and is author of The Customer Centred Strategy (Pitman, 1997).

    Phyl Johnson is a lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business. She gained her PhD in shared thinking in top management teams during strategy development from Cranfield School of Management. She is a Chartered Psychologist and is currently training part-time as a psychotherapist and sees clients who are serving personnel or their families, on behalf of HM Naval Base Clyde.

    She has presented her work on managerial and organizational cognition at international conferences and contributed chapters to several key research texts in the field. Her areas of research interest are managerial cognition, interaction in top management teams, the role of women directors and emotional life in the boardroom. She acts as a reviewer for the British Journal of Management, Journal of Management Studies and Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

    Andrew Kakabadse is Professor of International Management Development and Deputy Director of Cranfield School of Management. He is also Head of the Human Resources Group. Andrew has published 21 books, over 120 articles, 14 monographs and made over 70 conference presentations. He is Editor of the Journal of Management Development and has been Founding Editor of the Journal of Managerial Psychology and the Leadership and Organisational Development Journal.

    He has lectured widely in Europe, the USA, Russia, South East Asia, Japan and China. He is consultant to numerous organizations and to various governments. He is also a non-executive chairman and non-executive director for a number of companies.

    Nada Korac-Kakabadse is a Senior Research Fellow at Cranfield School of Management. She has a BSc in Mathematics and Computing, a Graduate Diploma in Management Sciences and a Masters Degree in Public Administration at the University of Canberra (Australia), and has earned her PhD in Management at the University of Western Sydney – Nepean (Australia). Her PhD thesis was concerned with ‘Leadership Philosophies and Organizational Adoption of a New Information Technology’.

    Nada has co-authored five books (with Andrew Kakabadse), Leadership in Government: A Comparative Benchmark Analysis (Ashgate, 1998), Essence of Leadership (International Thomson Business Press, 1999), Creating Futures: Innovative Applications of IS/IT (Ashgate, 2000), The Geopolitics of Governance (Palgrave, 2001) and Smart Sourcing (Palgrave, 2002). She has contributed 28 chapters to international volumes and has published 56 scholarly and review articles. She is co-editor of the Journal of Management Development and European Editor of the International Journal of Corporate Governance.

    Alexander Kouzmin holds the Chair in Organizational Behaviour at the Cranfield School of Management. He has published eight volumes of commissioned work. Among these are his edited Public Sector Administration: New Perspectives (Longman Cheshire, 1983); his co-edited (with N. Scott) Dynamics in Australian Public Management: Selected Essays (Macmillan, 1990); (with L. Still and P. Clarke) New Directions in Management (McGraw Hill, 1994); (with J. Garnett) Handbook of Administrative Communication (Marcel Dekker, 1997); and (with A. Hayne) Essays in Economic Globalization, Trans-national Policies and Vulnerability (IOP Press, 1999). He has contributed 60 chapters to many national and international volumes and has published some 220 papers, including scholarly and review articles in more than 65 leading international refereed journals. He is on the editorial boards of 11 international journals and is a founding co-editor of the international

    Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, published quarterly since 1993.

    David Partington lectures in project management and research methods at Cranfield School of Management. He has published several journal articles and book chapters on organization theory and research methods, and has presented a number of papers at conferences, including the British Academy of Management and the US Academy of Management. He is director of the Cranfield programme of management research workshops, which form the basis of this book. Before entering the academic world in 1988 he had more than 17 years' experience as an engineer and manager in the international construction sector, working on major projects in South America, the Middle East and the United Kingdom. He graduated from UMIST with a BSc in engineering, and has an MSc in project management and a PhD in organizational behaviour, both from Cranfield. Working with a number of global organizations, David's research interests include knowledge management and the implementation of programmes of strategic change.

    Val Singh is Senior Research Fellow in organizational behaviour, working in the Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders at Cranfield School of Management, where she undertook her doctorate into gender and managerial meanings of ‘commitment’ in engineering companies in the UK and Sweden. Her current research focuses on three areas: women directors on FTSE 100 company boards; the business case for gender diversity; and impression management strategies for enhanced personal reputation and visibility. She is also interested in career barriers and facilitators for women managers, especially mentoring. Val lectures on the Cranfield Research Methodology Course, taking sessions on Ethnography, Evaluating Research Reports, Introduction to Research Process, and the use of QSR NVivo and NUD.IST qualitative data analysis packages. She has published a number of journal articles, book chapters and conference papers, as well as occasional practitioner and newspaper articles.

    Susan Vinnicombe is Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Diversity Management, Director of Graduate Research, and Director of the Cranfield Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders at Cranfield School of Management.

    As Director of the Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders Susan designed and directed in-company Women's Management Development Programmes for British Telecom and National Power; both programmes have won prestigious Opportunity 2000 awards. Susan's particular research interests are women's leadership styles and the issues involved in women developing their managerial careers. Increasingly the focus of her work is on the issues facing women operating at, or striving to reach, the highest levels of management.

    David A. Whetten is the Jack Wheatley Professor of Organizational Behavior and Director of the Faculty Center at Brigham Young University. Prior to joining the Marriott School of Management in 1994 he was on the faculty at the University of Illinois for 20 years, where he served as Associate Dean of the College of Commerce, Harry Gray Professor of Business Administration, and Director of the Office of Organizational Research.

    He currently serves as the Editor of the Foundations for Organizational Science series, and he is a former Editor of the Academy of Management Review. He has published over 50 articles and books. He received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Organizational Behavior Teaching Society in 1992 for his pioneering work in management skills education.

    He has been an active member of the Academy of Management. In 1994 he received the Academy's Distinguished Service Award, he was elected an Academy Fellow in 1991, and in 1996 he was elected to a five-year term as an officer, culminating with his presidency in 2000.


    This book has grown out of a programme of themed management research workshops hosted by Cranfield School of Management. The workshops, which were based on Cranfield's doctoral research methods programme, were attended by research students, professional researchers and teachers of management research from a wide variety of academic institutions. Many of the book's authors have been associated with these programmes, and with wider research agendas at Cranfield and elsewhere. Our collective experiences of an evolving demand among management researchers to understand and apply particular research tools, approaches and intellectual traditions drive and inform the book's content.

    Arising from these experiences the book has two distinctive features. First, there is an emphasis on the practical concerns of management researchers. We focus on the details of developing and applying a particular set of research skills, not just on historical overviews and inward debate. Techniques and frameworks are illustrated by examples of their successful application by the authors and their students, as well as in well-known published exemplars.

    Second, the book acknowledges increasingly vocal concerns in European and American management and academic communities that much published management research fails to address practical concerns of managers. Today many students are under pressure to deliver research that makes a practical contribution to solving a particular management problem or usefully enlightening a particular issue in an organization or sector, in addition to making a contribution to knowledge. The book therefore has a strong bias towards research designs which tend towards the interpretive and action-oriented end of the methodological spectrum.


    The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is concerned with the crucial links between philosophy and research. Part 2 deals with three important but often neglected general issues relating to the process of conducting and disseminating management research. Part 3 consists of eight chapters each offering its authors' unique insights into specific management research approaches and techniques.

    Chapter 1: Robert Chia offers a unique view of the philosophy of management research. He argues that the wide range of theoretical perspectives – including positivism, hermeneutics, critical theory and realism – are all amalgams of two basic opposing strategies for knowledge creation, characterized as ontologies of being and becoming. The chapter concludes that only postmodernism presents a radical challenge to traditional approaches, bringing us closer to the realities and pragmatic concerns of the practitioner world.

    Chapter 2: Nada Korac-Kakabadse, Andrew Kakabadse and Alexander Kouzmin deal with the branch of philosophy known as ethics. They focus on a range of issues of ethical conduct which are particularly important in practically oriented management research. The authors offer a reflexive framework for resolving the range of personal ethical dilemmas that researchers may encounter.

    Chapter 3: David Whetten provides structured insight into the theory-development process. He argues that only good theories are likely to have a practical use, and that producing good theory is a skill which can be taught. By means of an orderly, easy-to-use methodology David explains how to develop theories that meet the twin criteria of being complete and systematic.

    Chapter 4: Anne Huff is an established authority on writing for scholarly publication. In this chapter she bases her arguments on the premise that scholarship is a community activity, and offers a wealth of hard-won practical advice to management scholars seeking to publish their work.

    Chapter 5: Kim James and Sue Vinnicombe encourage researchers to acknowledge their individuality, and to take account of their background, personal values, orientations and preferences in the design and conduct of their research. They discuss the importance of self-awareness and reflexive behaviour, and offer a model for understanding natural preferences.

    Chapter 6: Phyl Johnson and Don Harris compare and contrast quantitative and qualitative research designs, and discuss the range of key issues which are likely to concern researchers adopting either – or both – of these broadly categorized approaches in a management setting.

    Chapter 7: Val Singh and John Dixon provide an overview of ethnography in management research, giving advice on ethnographic processes of observation, interpretation and description. Val and John focus on practical concerns, including gaining access to research settings, collecting and analysing data.

    Chapter 8: David Partington describes how the research approach known as grounded theory has developed from its sociological origins to become one of the most widely applied strategies for building theories of management action from qualitative data. David offers a practical step-by-step procedure for grounded theory-building.

    Chapter 9: Alan Harrison dispels common myths and misconceptions surrounding case study research, and presents an insightful guide to this approach. The chapter provides a highly practical, yet rigorous guide to ensuring that the case study methodology delivers useful research results of high quality.

    Chapter 10: Mark Jenkins introduces the technique known as cognitive mapping as the basis for conducting management research. Mark discusses the foundations of the approach in cognitive psychology and describes its role in offering insights into managerial and organizational behaviour.

    Chapter 11: Keith Goffin offers a detailed description of the theory and conduct of repertory grid technique, another strategy that can be used in a wide variety of management situations to help respondents articulate their views on complex topics whilst reducing researcher bias.

    Chapter 12: Susan Baker introduces the powerful, structured approach to in-depth interviewing and analysis known as laddering. The laddering technique is used to understand meaning, linking relatively concrete meanings at an attribute level with abstract meanings of more pervasive existential importance.

    Chapter 13: Colin Eden and Chris Huxham describe their approach to action research, an interventionist research strategy used where there is intent to bring about change in organizations. The chapter enumerates the essential characteristics of rigorous, action-oriented research.


    Every effort has been made to trace all the copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangement at the first opportunity.

    Figure 3.1: D.A. Whetten and K.S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, fifth edition, Figure 5, p. 329, 2002. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Figure 9.1: W.L. Wallace, The Logic of Science, p. 18, 1971. Reprinted by permission of Aldine de Gruyter, a division of Walter de Gruyter, Inc.

    Figure 9.2: J. Meredith, ‘Theory Building through Conceptual Models’, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 13 (5): 3, 1993. Reprinted by permission of MCB University Press.

    Figure 9.3: J.R. Meredith et al., ‘Alternative Research Paradigms in Operations’, Journal of Operations Management, 8 (4): 309, 1989. Reprinted by permission of Elsevier Science.

    Figure 9.4: B.B. Flynn et al., ‘Empirical Research Methods in Operations Management’, Journal of Operations Management, 9 (2): 254, 1990. Reprinted by permission of Elsevier Science.

    Table 9.1: C.C. Ragin, The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative, Table 1, 1987. Reprinted by permission of the University of California Press.

    Table 9.2: K.M. Eisenhardt, ‘Building Theories from Case Study Research’, Academy of Management Review, 14 (4): 533, 1989. Reprinted by permission of the Academy of Management.

    Figure 10.1: CD. Wickens, ‘A Basic Information-Processing Framework for the Analysis of Human Cognition’ in CD. Wickens and J. Hollands, Engineering Psychology and Human Performance, third edition, p.11, 1999. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Figure 10.2: M. Jenkins, ‘The Theory and Practice of Comparing Causal Maps’ in C. Eden and J.C Spender (eds), Managerial and Organizational Cognition: Theory, Methods and Research, pp. 231–49, 1998. Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd.

    Figure 10.3: J.F. Porac, H. Thomas and C. Baden-Fuller, ‘Competitive Groups as Cognitive Communities: The Case of Scottish Knitwear Manufacturers’, Journal of Management Studies, 26 (4): 407, July 1989. Reprinted by permission of Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

    Figure 10.5: M. Jenkins and G. Johnson, ‘Entrepreneurial Intentions and Outcomes: A Comparative Causal Mapping Study’, Journal of Management Studies, 34 (6): 911, November 1997. Reprinted by permission of Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

    Figure 10.6: PS. Barr, J.L. Stimpert and A.S. Huff, ‘Cognitive Change, Strategic Action and Organizational Renewal’, Strategic Management Journal, 13 (Summer Special Issue): 26, 1992. Reprinted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.

    Figure 10.7: M. Jenkins, ‘Theory and Practice in Comparing Causal Maps’ in C. Eden and J.C. Spender (eds), Managerial and Organizational Cognition, p. 233, 1998. Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd.

    Chapter 13: C. Eden and C. Huxham, ‘Action Research for the Study of Organizations’ in S. Clegg, C. Hardy and W. Nord, Handbook of Organization Studies, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd.

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