This chapter describes the qualitative method we used for our study of ICOM. We chose semi-structured interviews as an information gathering technique. Sections describing the pre-pilot study, the interviews, and the interviewees are included. One section also presents how the information we collected were analyzed. We also illustrate the weaknesses encountered during our process within one section. The chapter closes with a discussion on the trustworthiness of our research.
“Qualitative research is a research strategy that usually emphasizes words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data.” (Bryman & Bell, 2007, p. 402). This quote describes a qualitative method, which we decided to use for this thesis. This method allow us to investigate the relationship between CL and PL and the distinct leadership in the CL‟s role and area of responsibility. The main advantage of this method is its openness towards information (Jacobsen, 2002) and the diversity in information (Creswell, 2003). By receiving diversity in information we are able to investigate how the feedback routine is structured between PL and CL and if the role and area of responsibility of the CL is distinct in relation to the employees. Since a qualitative method is open towards information, it allows individuals to reveal their understanding of a stated issue (Jacobsen, 2002).
Another advantage is the flexibility of a qualitative method, meaning that the original problem statement can be changed during a study. As we gained more knowledge along the process we changed the problem of the study to refine it. Our first problem statement focused only on the role of the CL while the present problem statement also puts focus on the distinction of CL‟s area of responsibility and the feedback routine employed by CLs and PLs. A qualitative method also allows us to be close to the people who participate in the study (Jacobsen, 2002). Close involves meeting and interacting with the people in person and listen to them. It is also important to state that this method provides the opportunity to put focus on details (Bryman & Bell, 2007). It allows us to put focus on all the respondents within the study and also investigate both the relationship between CL and PL and how employees find the CL‟s role and responsibility to be.
It is important to keep in mind that there are disadvantages with the qualitative method. One disadvantage is the difficulties of fully replicate a study. This requires the researcher to put more emphasizes on a specific area within a study while other areas are left out (Bryman & Bell, 2007). We have tried to use all of the information provided by the respondents. However, it is difficult to emphasize every detail given. Therefore, we have encountered this difficulty along our process. When using a qualitative method extensive information is gathered. All the information can be difficult to structure and compile in order to be comprehensive for the authors. We came across this obstacle when structuring the information we collected from the 13 interviews. Another obstacle with this method is that the interviewees might find it difficult to give their true answer to some questions (Jacobsen, 2002). During the interviews we asked questions which interviewees might have found difficult to answer truthfully. One of these questions was if they were satisfied with their leader or not.
As an alternative to qualitative method, researchers can use a quantitative method. A quantitative method involves figures and quantification as a measure. This is the main difference between quantitative and qualitative method (Bryman & Bell, 2007). However, there are more differences between these two methods. According to Jacobsen (2002) a quantitative method involves deciding, before conducting a research, the measured category e.g. women or men. The data gathered during this method are standardized which means that each unit, within the study, will be treated equally. An example for techniques used within this method is questionnaires with e.g. yes or no answers, or numerical answers. Since each unit is treated equally it is difficult to see the uniqueness of each unit. This is one of the disadvantages with a quantitative method.
We find the qualitative method to be the most suitable method for our study. This method enables us to investigate our purpose where we had the opportunity to put focus on details and words (Bryman & Bell, 2007). The qualitative method also provides us with the opportunity to gather extensive information from employees at ICOM. As an information collection technique we used semi-structured interviews. This technique is further presented in section 3.1.2. The following section presents the pre-pilot study we conducted.
The (pre)-pilot study
We decided to make a pre-pilot study before we conducted the interviews. A pre-pilot study involves asking a person, within the same reference group as the interviewees, to give feedback on the intended questions. This allows for changes in focus and phrasing of the questions and deleting questions, which are not relevant. The questions should flow and there should be cohesion among the questions (Gillham, 2005). Please see appendix 2, 3 and 4 for the Swedish version of the questions and appendix 5, 6 and 7 for the English version.
Our pre-pilot study included a Senior HR Manager, who has been working within IKEA for 33 years. Considering the manager‟s background he has broad knowledge and insight in both IKEA and ICOM. Therefore, we believed this manager was an appropriate person to involve.
Together with the manager we had a discussion regarding the interview questions. The manager provided his recommendations. He believed we could change the phrasing and the focus within some questions. We did not make any major changes but some questions were reformulated to better suit our purpose. The recommendations we got were very useful and we found it valuable to conduct a pre-pilot study. We also met with another manager, outside of IKEA and ICOM, who has worked as a competence leader for many years. The manager, M. Steinholtz, has therefore a lot of experience from matrix organizations and we were able to discuss the concept of matrix organization with him. The manager confirmed that feedback strategies are difficult to manage in complex company structures (M, Steinholtz, personal communication, 8 March 2010). The informal meeting with the manager provided us with some additional basic information about matrix organizations.
For the information collection technique we chose to conduct semi-structured interviews. The technique is a mix between structured and open questions (Gillham, 2005). This enables the interviewer to ask additional questions if the answers are not satisfying (Williamson, 2002). Some of the questions we asked were the same to all interviewees while we created a couple of questions that were only asked to specific respondents. These questions were specified in relation to a respondents work tasks and position. Examples of interview questions are: “What is a good leadership for you?” and “How do you experience the relationship and the communication between CL and PL?” The question: “In what way does the CL and PL relationship affect the whole organization, according to you?” was only asked to the CEO. This was done because the CEO has the overall perspective of the organization.
The interviews were tape recorded in order for us to go back and listen to them. This was done in order to be able to do a thorough analysis of the material. Another advantage of using a tape recorder is that it gave us the respondents‟ exact statement and not our interpretation of what the interviewees said. To tape record the interviews also helped us to avoid distraction from the need to take notes (Williamson, 2002).
An advantage with semi-structured interviews is that it provides a combination of structure and openness. With the help of prompts the interviewer can guide the interviewees to get equivalent coverage in the field of interest (Gillham, 2005). We were able to gather a lot of information from each interviewee since the questions we asked were open but at the same time focused on our purpose.
It is important to keep in mind that the answers can vary in relation to what tone of voice the question was asked. The answers can also be affected by how the interviewer is interpreted by the interviewee and vice versa. Personal characteristics such as age, sex, educational level and race can bias an interview (Williamson, 2002). Although a bias is accepted in a qualitative method, we still want to highlight that sometimes the questions might have been asked in a biased way.
It is also important to keep in mind that when conducting a semi-structured interview each interview should have the same time disposition (Gillham, 2005). The interviewees were allotted the same amount of time, which was around 20 minutes. The time span was set in order to not take too much time from the interviewees but at the same time give us as much information as possible. The interviews were performed in Swedish. Therefore, the quotations and empirical findings have been translated into English.
1.1 Problem discussion
1.2 Statement of Problem
1.5 Disposition of the thesis
2 Theoretical framework
2.1 Leadership Theories
2.2 Feedback theories
2.3 Structure theory: 7-S model
2.4 Theoretical emphasis
3.1 Qualitative method
3.2 Information analysis
3.3 Weaknesses encountered
4 Empirical presentation
4.1 Empirical material
5.1 Leadership theories
6 Results and concluding discussion
6.2 Concluding discussion
6.3 Further research
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ICOM A study on leadership and feedback within a communication company