CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
In virtually every subject area, our knowledge is incomplete and problems are waiting to be solved. We can address the holes in our knowledge and those unresolved problems by asking relevant questions and then seeking answers through systematic research (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010:1).
As indicated by Leedy and Ormrod (2010:1), the purpose of this research was to seek answers to the research questions set out in section 1.4 and to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on strategy implementation. Research is a systematic process where information on a specific topic is gathered in order to increase understanding of that phenomenon (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009), research is about finding things out by following a systematic approach and thereby increasing knowledge. This chapter was concerned with the methodology used to obtain data for this study as well as the design methodology used for the study.
The purpose of the study was to explore the practices and processes executed by managers during the implementation of strategy. The strategy-as-practice perspective allows for micro-level detail to be included as part of the approach and therefore a research approach was chosen that can produce such rich data and best answer the research questions during this study. In order to do that, the study investigated the problem of strategy implementation, analysed existing literature, identified the gaps, and explored the roles of middle managers in strategy practices and processes, specifically in the South African DERI context.
The structure of the research design and methodology chapter was based on the guidelines provided by Hofstee (2006) as depicted in Figure 3.1 below. The methodology section defined the instruments, data and analysis to be used for the study. Research instruments were investigated to identify the most appropriate one for this research and the method for data collection and the analysis methods have been indicated. This is followed by the section on limitations, ethical considerations and conclusions.
Following this approach ensured a sound chronological flow to build up to the design and methodology so as to define and justify the tools and methodologies used for this specific research.
OVERALL RESEARCH DESIGN
The research design is the overall plan that has been followed to address the research questions. The research strategy is the selection of the correct methodology or tool to answer the research question (Saunders et al, 2009). The term “methodology” refers to the theory and process of how the research is to be undertaken, while the term “design” refers to the blueprint of the chosen research design itself (Mouton, 2011). For the purpose of this research, the terminology “Research Methodology” and “Research Design” has been used as described in Table 3.1 below.
Several research theories were found in the literature review. The methodologies might vary slightly between theorists but the basic foundations are similar. Three different design types have been highlighted here, namely the Descriptors of Research Design by Cooper and Schindler (2011); the Three Worlds Framework by Mouton (2011); and the Research Onion by Saunders et al (2009). After investigating these approaches to research methodology, it was decided that the methodology followed for this research was based on the “research onion” as defined by Saunders et al (2009) and depicted in Figure 3.2 below.
The basic principle of the “research onion” is that the research methodology starts by looking at the research philosophy which contains the assumptions that determine the strategy and method to be used in the design of the research. The next step was to determine whether to follow a deductive or inductive approach to the research design. After that, the purpose of the research and the research strategies or designs were defined. The type of data was defined as either quantitative or qualitative, and the data collection techniques and analysis procedures were explained. The time-frame within which the research was done was defined and issues of credibility addressed. The research ethics were discussed and lastly, the data collection and analysis were described (Saunders et al, 2009).
The research philosophy guides and defines the rest of the process, decisions, designs and methods required to define the methodology. During the analysis of the data for this study, it was decided that a pragmatic approach would be the best option to follow for this research.
Pragmatism argues that the most important determinant is the research question but that there can be more than one approach, paving the way for mixed methods (Saunders et al, 2009). This means that, in principle, the pragmatism philosophy lies in the practical observable consequences of the research. This approach is also the best way to answer the research question and focus on applied practical research. It is also the best fit for mixed-method research and has therefore been chosen for this study.
Knowledge is attained through both observable phenomena and subjective meanings, depending on the research question. The focus of this study is on practical applied research which integrates different perspectives to assist in the interpretation of the data collected. The researcher adopts both objective and subjective points of view (Saunders, et al, 2009).
Deductive reasoning is the drawing of conclusions from premises (Mouton, 2011). The deductive approach is used where a hypothesis is drawn from theory and the research is designed to test the hypothesis (Saunders et al, 2009). This implies that a deduction or hypothesis is being made from a statement of theory or model in order to test the theory. It can also be used to clarify the meaning of a concept through deductive reasoning. As a general approach, deduction links more to positivism and the natural sciences, based on scientific principles, whereas induction focuses on achieving an understanding of meaning (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
Inductive approaches, on the other hand, involve the movement from observations and findings to theory, where theory is the outcome of the research (Bryman & Bell, 2007). This is particularly useful in the social sciences, where the cause-effect link includes the human effect and its influence on the variables. It includes alternative explanations about processes or actions and also includes the context in which these events are taking place. This is particularly useful where some of the variables are intangible issues and need to be handled accordingly. Induction emphasises the understanding of the meanings humans attach to events. It supports the collection of qualitative data and allows for a more flexible structure to permit changes in research emphasis as the research progresses. It also supports the fact that the researcher is part of the research process and is less concerned with the need to generalise (Saunders et al, 2009). The type of research approach chosen for this study was therefore inductive.
The purpose of the research
The purpose of the research within the context of this study is to investigate the problem identified, analyse existing literature, identify the gaps and explore the practices and processes executed by middle managers during strategy implementation. This has been done in order to add to the existing body of knowledge in this area.
The specific purpose of this research study was to explore the practices and processes carried out by middle managers during strategy implementation. This was therefore an exploratory study to find out what happened; to understand a problem; to ask questions and to evaluate the phenomenon (Saunders et al, 2009; Cooper & Schindler, 2011).
The research design is the plan of how the research questions will be answered. It contains clear objectives and specifies the sources from which data will be collected, the constraints, time issues and ethical considerations. The design must be aligned with the type of study and the approaches as determined in the previous sections. All decisions and methodologies used for the research have to be defensible. To assist with the choice of the design, several models were investigated to motivate for the research design chosen.
This study has used a mixed-methods approach which includes both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. When the data collection generates numerical data, this is called quantitative data. The measurements are made in units, amounts or quantities. It can also be done and measured in terms of rulers, metres and measuring equipment (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). Qualitative data generates and uses non-numerical data that is typically obtained through interviews and by categorising data. This looks at the qualities of the data and is used where data is collected about complex behaviours or situations (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). A study may contain both methods and therefore multiple methods can be used according to the requirements of the research design. This study has combined both the quantitative and qualitative research methods to build on the strengths of the two and to eliminate the weaknesses inherent in them. This means that one method must compensate for the weakness in the other, and vice versa. The intention is that they should complement each other (Saunders et al, 2009; Cooper & Schindler, 2011).
The combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods has been used specifically because the study falls within the business management research field, which is not as tangible as the natural sciences with regard to quantitative methodologies. The qualitative research will be followed by quantitative research to validate the qualitative findings. This calls for triangulation in design approach, which will use the questionnaire as the quantitative method and the semi-structured interview and document analysis as the qualitative method for data collection.
This study was evaluated on its theoretical approach to determine a valid design to be used. It was decided to base the design of this study on a case-study approach, specifically the ethnographic case study. The strength of ethnographic research through case studies is that it provides high construct validity, in-depth insights and establishes rapport with research subjects. The weaknesses are a lack of generalisability of results, non-standardisation of measurement, and the fact that data collection and analysis may be time-consuming.
A comprehensive summary of the design including design classification, applications, meta theory, mode of reasoning, strengths, limitations and main sources of error is given below in Table 3.2.
The information above gives an indication of the type of research and design that was followed during this study. The method used for data collection and analysis will be discussed next.
The preceding evaluations were done in order to define the research design which is influenced by the research questions, research objectives, philosophical approach and the angle from which the study is being approached.
Figure 3.3 shows the different research choices that were considered in order to decide on the method used for this research. The first choice is between the mono- and multiple methods. The mono-method is when a single data collection and analysis technique are to be used. The mono-method is not under consideration for this study as was indicated in the previous sections. Therefore more than one method was used for the reasons provided above. This is called the multiple method and consists of two elements, namely the multi-method and the mixed-method.
Multi-method refers to the use of more than one data collection and analysis technique, whether quantitative or qualitative. Both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods have been used for this study.
The mixed-method approach is used when both quantitative as well as qualitative techniques and procedures are to be used in a research design. According to Saunders et al (2009), mixed-method research is used when the quantitative and qualitative methods are used simultaneously (in parallel) or after each other (in sequence) but are not combined. The mixed-method approach combines quantitative and qualitative collection techniques and analysis procedures for use in the research design and other stages, such as during the research question generation and questionnaire design phases. This means that one can take quantitative data and qualitise it (convert it into narrative that can be analysed qualitatively) or take qualitative data and quantitise it (convert it into numerical codes and analyse that statistically) (Saunders et al, 2009; Cooper & Schindler, 2011).
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.4 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE AND BENEFITS OF THE STUDY
1.9 ETHICS IN RESEARCH.
1.10 CHAPTER OUTLINES
CHAPTER 2: STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION
2.1 THEORETICAL ROADMAP
2.3 FROM FORMULATION TO IMPLEMENTATION
2.4 STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION
2.6 MIDDLE MANAGERS AS STRATEGY PRACTITIONERS
2.8 SUMMARY OF THE LITERATURE SURVEY
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.2 OVERALL RESEARCH DESIGN
3.3 RESEARCH PHILOSOPHY
3.4 RESEARCH APPROACH
3.5 RESEARCH STRATEGY
3.6 RESEARCH CHOICE
3.7 TIME HORIZONS
3.8 TECHNIQUES AND PROCEDURES
3.9 CREDIBILITY OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
3.10 LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH DESIGN
CHAPTER 4: WITHIN-CASE ANALYSIS
CHAPTER 5: CROSS-CASE ANALYSIS
CHAPTER 6: FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION
CHAPTER 7: RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION.
7.2 GENERAL SUMMARY
7.3 RESPONSE TO THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
7.4 PRACTICES AND PROCESSES IN STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION
7.7 FUTURE RESEARCH
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