How to capture qualitative research?
This is a continuation in our series looking at how to involve staff in business change. Research is a bit more straight forward when have something measure. A financial outcome, the number of units made, or market penetration increased by. But other soft information such as people’s opinions or trends or forecasts into the future these are all a bit harder to define. This is where qualitative research techniques come into play.
How do staff really feel about business change? Capture it in a survey.
Surveys are great way to gather people’s opinions. They need to be structured in such a way that helps respondents think through all the issues in a logical order. This way you can claw back from qualitative to quantitative approach by gaining a number of those who agrees or disagree with a supposition. Questions need to be carefully contrived as not to lead to any ambiguity. The “MECE” principle should apply of being mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive. Make them either/or. Meaning should be clear and provide a yes, no answer. Only one sort of response per question. If you use the term “recent” does that mean within the last week of the last year? Better to be defined and give a definite time such as “last week”. Where written answers are involved then that would purely be for explanatory notes or to elicit specific ideas from people. The results can be collated and reported back in summary form.
There are other methods such as shadowing people and collecting information in the background. These can then be documented into specific notes by the analyst. Random sampling of products or test results can also provide valuable insights.
Now everybody back in the room.
Although these approaches capture “soft data” they can be then brought back into some measurable format so results can be compared. The number of people who agree with a question is one way, or even an indication of an attitude (Low, Medium, High) can then revert back to a number for calculation purposes. Those items which can’t be either monetised or broken down to unit (notes or opinions that can only be understood by descriptive text) can then be brought in to be compared with empirical data to confirm or deny those results. In our downloads section (available to subscribers) we have a few examples. The “job description exercise” and “software vendor comparison chart” both allow functional answers to be compared with subjective information. The “Risk register” allows a company to see the potential damage to their reputation (or intellectual property) in relation to a data breach. These exercises are an attempt to allow for those elements that can not be quantified when it comes to making a business decision.
Humankind has always had to deal with a variety of choices that need be made with imperfect information. These have been a few examples of how to summarise that information to capture pure calculation with gut feel.
About the Author:
Malcolm Ford has over 10 years experience in advising companies on implementing new technologies for their business. This includes measured outcomes against expected results for improving a companies performance.