Postprint version. Published in Research in Organizational Change and Development, Volume 17, January 1, 2009, pages 37-75.
Copyright © 2009 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/S0897-3016(2009)0000017004.
Since 1973, the pharmacy operations division of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program (KPMCP) has used long-term action research programs as the principal method for orchestrating change. This chapter covers the evolution of action research theory within large, complex organizations, with particular attention to health care organizations. Four case examples from KPMCP are discussed in depth and mapped to the recently advanced Roth model of insider action research. This model considers external and internal business context, the perceived need to create new organizational capabilities, as well as insider action research theory and learning mechanisms used in change programs. Issues posed by the Roth model are explored, and new theory is advanced regarding the need for a long-term perspective, the advantages and difficulties posed when managers act as insider action researchers, and the quality of data gathering that takes place during insider action research change programs.