«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
The first six months, because I am technically minded and I do like technical things and I like tangible things that I can see and do and touch, and I think at first I thought it is a little bit woolly. You know, managerial wise. But, I really enjoy it now and I can see the relativeness completely in everything we have done. Leading on from that, about six or seven months ago and opportunity arose for a Project Officer’s job working in Ops and Maintenance and I have got to be honest, I think that when I went into the interview; the questions they asked were all relative to the three assignments that I had previously done and I am sure that it helped me tremendously getting the job that I have got now.
Premises and services – basically that is what they want me to do and I have come down the lines of now I am doing the asbestos survey compliance manual which we are just setting up, I am going to be taking over the area returns for all of the hospital. We have got this premises assurance model that they want me to get involved in as well. So I am going down a completely different route to what they set me off as, as Project Manager. I am diversifying everywhere at the minute.
I am still in charge when the Estates Manager is not there of the whole Estates staff. So there are still fifty or sixty staff that I will be in charge of when nobody else is there.
Synopsis, observations and reflections on Brushstrokes He had a background as an apprenticeship painter and decorator, moving forward his career to a larger organisation and diversifying his skill set.
Interestingly, he has been offered every job he has been for in his career! This felt like a very honest and open interview.
I found his discussion interesting in relation to “how you can encourage people to engage in reflective practice and own up to mistakes when they are feeling at risk in relation to job security”. This may also be a consideration in the current climate and is explored further in Chapter 5.
He talks about change of management - people being more able to be open since the old manager left, this provided an interesting impact on staff to feel more open to be able to engage with reflective practice.
He discussed the need for FM to constantly change and evolve, can reflective practice be the tool to help with this? Again this is a question which will be reflected upon in Chapter 5.
Summary and overview of life histories My initial reflection was the difference in the level of willingness to delve further back in their life before work, or whether they were more comfortable with just talking about their careers. Some students discussed their struggles at school and this is not uncommon with the facilities management students, as the majority start the undergraduate course with no formal education.
Drawing on Crist and Tanner’s (2003) approach in relation to synthesising the life histories I have identified some shared meanings and connections between
the social actors which were:
The majority of the students interviewed had no formal, traditional education and have come to studying at a later date.
Again, as a majority, FM had not been a conscious career choice, but something they had “fallen into” and this is not uncommon from my observations across all of our courses and cohorts of students.
All the students have completed the course at Sheffield Hallam University and have been engaged in reflective practice throughout the course There was a stated need from all of them to engage in learning for improvement and recognition of a change in themselves post the course.
There is a difference in age and gender, although this does not appear to have had any influence on the response, or their background therefore gender and age will not be a consideration through the interpretation.
There is a difference in FM provision and roles, but as the FM industry is synonymous with this, this equally will not be a consideration The students come from a variety of public and private sector, and this has had some influence on some of the responses so will be considered in the interpretation The FM industry finds it hard to give an agreed definition of a facilities manager, and the above life histories have evidenced very different roles within FM.
Following on from my social actors’ life history statements and the initial observations and reflections on the biographical information and interviews, the next chapter will explore the themes identified and the route taken to realise the four themes. The interpretation from the interviews will also draw on the background of the social actors; and includes the email narratives from the 34 email respondents. This continues along the line of Crist and Tanner’s (2003) position, although their phases 3 and 4 have been merged moving forward in relation to shared meaning and also interpretation of the text. As stated previously, I felt that their phases were too explicit and did not allow for deviation hence a slightly adapted model approach.
Chapter 5 A Hermeneutic Exploration of Reflective Practice
This chapter will explore the hermeneutic journey and analysis of the text, starting with an explanation of the process undertaken, including the initial pass on the narrative and how the categories and subsequently the four themes were formed. The chapter moves on to the analysis of the themes and draws on the narrative from the social actors, my reflections and the literature to further develop the hermeneutic spiral. The final section of this chapter will be the “fifth” spiral, drawing the themes together as a whole, to synthesise the discussion.
The hermeneutic journey
The journey taken meant that I had started with a preunderstanding of the literature before I entered the research; this drew on academic literature and practice based literature. Following this preunderstanding, the questions were formulated for both the email questions which subsequently led me to the informal discussions with my social actors through the interview process. As I engaged with the analysis, I started with each theme which then led me through the hermeneutic spiral of pre understanding, my reflection on the text and then into more literature to explore and gain further understanding. This occurred for each theme, in line with Gummesson's (2000) model and the final element was to draw on a more holistic view of the original research aims and drawing the themes together with further reflection.
To explain my approach in more depth, I started with an initial reading of the narratives (email questions and the interviews) to allow myself full immersion within the text and to establish any first thoughts. I broke the text down into
categories as identified by the screenshot overleaf:
Figure 5: Research Categories
This initial read through helped me to draw on central concerns, exemplars and paradigm cases which involved the identification of important themes or meanings. The process of interpretive writing is iterative and continues to draw on the interviews and the reflections of the researcher, alongside any new literature which may have been exposed (Crist and Tanner, 2003). My initial reflections were that there was a general use of reflective practice but the extent of use varied, as did the level of openness from the interviewees. When reading the emails, there seemed to be a lot of discussion about improved personal and professional performance, and how reflective practice had developed their decision making skills and changed their mindset in relation to decision making.
Following identification of categories, I reflected again on my reading and started to think about the overarching themes that I felt these related to for the purpose of entering the hermeneutic cycle (Fagerberg and Norberg (2009). At this point I started to work with NVivo as a way of managing the texts and for ease of referral. The use of NVivo was purely to manage the amount of text and not to aid the creation of the four themes. NVivo was not used during the analysis. As Paterson and Higgs (2005:349) discussed in their hermeneutic research they used NVivo to ‘assist in managing large volumes of data and tracking the coding of key concepts’.
Once the categories were established (Fig 5) I reflected on my ‘naïve preunderstanding’ and there appeared to be areas of personal development which included emotional intelligence and behavioural change as part of the learning from the individuals. The other areas included how reflective practice was used from a practical perspective and this differed in levels of use and engagement. There was also discussion on the impact of reflective practice on decision making and how decisions were made including the length of time that individuals took to engage in decisions and the more critical approach of reflexivity drawing on prior learning to ensure previous mistakes had been learned from and applied.
Another area appeared to be an acceptance of making mistakes in order to learn – this needed to be in a safe environment where this was acceptable and others referred to a lessening of ‘blame culture’. This was an area that surprised me and not something I had particular considered at the start of this journey.
I considered using NVivo, but this is a non-typical avenue to explore when using a hermeneutic approach. So to aid with the initial narrative discussion, and to develop the 4-5 themes for the hermeneutic spiral I read through the transcripts several times, making myself notes to aid my understanding and to give me the first spiral of interpretation. I inputted the transcripts and email questions into NVivo although I felt the need to delve deeper into the narrative rather than it just being a coding exercise. This would reaffirm the findings from Fagerberg and Norberg (2009:736) in the teaching of hermeneutics as a research method to students as they suggested ‘during the structural analysis, the text is then divided into meaning units that are condensed and abstracted to form subthemes, themes and possibly main themes, which are compared with the naive understanding for validation. The text is then read again as a whole (critical reading), the naive understanding and the themes are reflected on in relation to the researchers’ preunderstanding, and relevant literature, and a comprehensive understanding is formulated that discloses new possibilities for “being” in the world.” This was initially done on paper as identified in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Research Themes Further to my initial thoughts on paper, I inputted the information into NVivo as identified in Appendix A. The next page identified the four main themes and their subthemes/categories which will be explored in more depth through the analysis.
The four main themes and their sub themes The four themes and their subthemes identified were
1. Reflective Practice in the Workplace
1.1 The use of reflective practice
1.2 Perception of reflective practice at the outset of the course
1.3 Changes in service delivery
1.4 Perceived risks of not engaging with reflective practice
1.5 Perceived importance of engagement in reflective practice for facilities managers
2. Reflective Practice and Decision Making
2.1 Decision making skills and the impact of reflective practice
2.2 Decision making and learning
4. Reflective Practice and Personal Development
4.2 Emotional intelligence (emotions, control and empathy)
4.4 Behavioural change
4.5 Confidence During the process of theme identification and an immersion in the text, I was left with several questions which I will answer through the hermeneutic cycle and this forms part of the overall hermeneutic analysis to constantly raise
questions to the narrative. These included:
Is there a question of reflective practice impacting on organisational behaviour?
Why do people engage in reflective practice, and is it due to the learning journey with us that has encouraged them to reflect more deeply on their own learning?
Do organisations need to become more open to allow true engagement in reflective practice At this point, and staying true to the hermeneutic tradition, I entered into a reflection on my own understanding of the four themes from my perspective in the workplace.
Reflections on my own understanding As an individual with a more extraverted personality, I have a tendency to speak first and reflect afterwards and I have been aware of this more recently, both personally and professionally. I have reacted to a situation - engaged mouth – gone away and reflected on my behaviours and more often than not have had to go back to colleagues to apologise for my rash decision making or reactions.
I have a tendency to rush up the ladder of inference (Argyris, 1985) and now realise that if I had taken time to assimilate the information and reflect then I probably wouldn’t have reacted in the same way.
Over time, I have recognised how my behaviours have impacted on colleagues and I try to (*not always perfectly) stand back a little more before making a rash statement or judgement. On the negative side, I do feel that I now supress my feelings in order to maintain a level of group cohesiveness, which equally is not healthy. The concept of emotions and being able to manage them better has helped me to refrain from more argumentative situations with colleagues. I need to become/am becoming more aware of how my behaviours can influence a wider collective without becoming someone I am not.
Using reflective practice has helped me to understand my own behaviours but also to recognise my own areas of strengths and to acknowledge those even though I am acutely uncomfortable with praise. Also, allowed me to recognise my limitations to enable me to work on those and continually develop through my role. I also like to reflect on my teaching and the feedback received from students. I do recognise that I am more comfortable with critical feedback from students as it gives me a sense of what needs to be improved as opposed to the positive affirmations and this is an area I need to work on in myself.