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«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»

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The research has contributed to the discourse of reflective practice and more specifically in the context of facilities management, as there was a dearth of literature in this area and it will provide new knowledge to academia within facilities management and also to the profession as a whole. The research found evidence of blame culture within organisations that had been lessened by the use of reflective practice. As has previously been noted during the banking crisis, staff felt unable to say that things were going wrong for fear of retribution and perhaps if we can encourage the use of reflective practice and an open and honest learning environment within the organisation we can allow for a deeper level of personal and organisational learning. Reflective practice has lessened blame culture and thereby trying to engage people in the concept of reflective practice could lead to heightened organisational commitment, as trust is encouraged to grow. In some aspects, due to the discussion of blame, this research sits with a wider remit than just facilities management and more with the discipline of organisational behaviour.

Organisations need to embrace reflective practice to enable a more open and honest workplace, and this needs to be led top down. Vince and Reynolds (undated:1) stated in their paper that “reflective practice should not just be focused on the individual but should be embedded as good practice within the management and organizational structure”. Moving forward organisations need to see the benefit of engaging a reflective workforce and this needs to stem from senior management. To encourage engagement in reflective practice and the level of trust required for it to be beneficial, it should be embedded in the heart of the organisation. “Engaged organisations are said to have strong and authentic values with clear evidence of trust and fairness based on mutual respect where two-way promises and commitments between employers and staff are understood and are fulfilled”. (Gennard and Judge, 2010:27).

Van Woerkom and Croon’s (2008) model in relation to the operationalization of critically reflective work behaviour needs to have an extra dimension to understand the organisational engagement and commitment to reflective work behaviour. As this research has identified there may be a desire for reflection but unless the environment is positive towards this approach, it is very hard for individuals or communities to engage in such practice. Again linked with operationalization, there needs to be further research on how reflective behaviour leads to innovation from a practical perspective in the workplace.

This research has identified, through reflection leading to changes in decision making, a renewed approach in understanding problems and issues and leading to improved methods of service delivery.

Nursing draws heavily on reflective practice to ensure there is constant learning and I feel this research is useful as a learning experience in any similar environment. Whilst the research focused on facilities managers, the learning taken in relation to reflective practice and service delivery, decision making, trust and personal development can be transcribed to many different working environments.

Credibility of the research

As part of the conclusion and ensuring quality in interpretive research there is a need to consider three areas, authenticity, plausibility, and trustworthiness to indicate the credibility of the research (Paterson and Higgs, 2005). I have also drawn on the practice of hermeneutics from Madison (1988) who discussed the methodological principles to highlight whether I felt there had been any gaps in my approach.

As Madison (1988:29-30) discussed in relation to using hermeneutics in nursing research the methodological principles were stated as below, and I felt that I had closely aligned with this approach. The life histories have provided the context and the questions raised as I had been through the hermeneutic spiral were discussed in my final synthesis section in Chapter 4 to ensure a thoroughness in my approach. I have ensured that I have been ‘true’ to the actors’ voices whilst trying to interpret understanding without drawing from my own bias. The cycle then involved further engagement with the theoretical concepts and my interpretations have linked to existing text; however there are elements which I felt brought new concepts to the discussion of reflective practice.

a) Coherence - the interpretation should be logically consistent

b) Comprehensiveness – regard for the whole of the work

c) Penetration – the underlying, central problematic should be laid bare

d) Thoroughness – all the questions raised by the text, should be answered

e) Appropriateness - the questions should be raised by the text, not by the interpreter

f) Contextuality – the text should be set into historical – cultural context

g) Agreement (1) - the interpretation should agree with what the author really says without distortions

h) Agreement (2) – the interpretation should agree with established interpretations of the text

i) Suggestiveness – the interpretation should be fertile and stimulate the imagination

j) Potential – the application of the interpretation can be further extended As part of the conclusion and ensuring quality in interpretive research there is a need to consider three areas, authenticity, plausibility, and trustworthiness to indicate the credibility of the research (Paterson and Higgs, 2005).

Authenticity – use of unstructured discussion to allow the voices of the social actors and were not led by questions - use of life histories to get background of social actors. Creation of four themes to move forward with the hermeneutic analysis whilst using NVivo to manage the amount of text; resulting in an exploration of those themes remaining true to social actors’ voices and drawing on theory to explore further. The final spiral revisited to look at the whole to revisit the questions stated within the introduction.

Plausibility - this goal was addressed by the use of life histories and the original social actors’ quotes in the text and evidence of the relation to the four themes (Paterson, 2003) Trustworthiness - defined as confidence in that the information reported is accurate and reflects validity (Depoy and Gitlin, 1998). This has been addressed by drawing in the participants from the field of facilities management who have completed the undergraduate certificate course at Sheffield Hallam University. Consistent critique of the themes and the holistic whole. The actors’ voices were not tampered with and interpretations were acknowledged through the eyes of a lecturer in reflective practice.

Rigour through an explanation of the hermeneutic spiral and deep immersion within the text and the theory to create further understanding Ethical considerations - these were considered drawing on Miles and Huberman’s (1994) ethical considerations questions, I have drawn on the worthiness of the project; informed consent; harm and risk; benefits; honesty and trust; privacy, confidentiality and anonymity; and integrity and quality as discussed in Table 3 on page 56.

Limitations of the research In order to achieve a well-structured and contained piece of research, the research scope was kept to a tight definition and as I have mentioned through the hermeneutic analysis (Chapter 5), there were areas that I have left to be considered for future research.

I used NVivo to manage the volume of text, this is not a typical approach to hermeneutic research but as discussed previously, this has been used in hermeneutic research previously by Paterson and Higgs (2005), however it needed to be managed to ensure that the researcher did not become detached from the text. Another potential limitation was achieving a realistic timeframe, as with hermeneutic research you could continue to interpret and analyse ad infinitum and therefore I had to give myself a strict deadline for completion.

There was another consideration in that I could have drawn my social actors from a wider pool of facilities managers and interviewed people that had not been through the course to see whether reflective practice was indeed lived within their working practice, but as this was about the understanding of our current students and alumni to better understand how to teach reflective practice; therefore this was not an avenue taken. However, in hindsight it may have drawn on some interesting comparisons and may give me an area for furthering this research in the future to a wider demographic of facilities managers.

Future Research

There are areas that I would like to continue to research after this doctoral thesis and they have been borne from subject matter from this study. They include the concept of the “Mindful Facilities Manager”; this is an area of interest and I felt that some of the text from this research could be drawn upon to discover whether the traits and discussions identified could lead to further understanding. Another area of further research from this study would be to explore the concept of emancipation that is potentially felt by reflective practitioners (Moon, 1999).

I aim to further this existing study by exploring the concept of openness and trust in an organisational context to see whether this can enhance the practice of reflection and to understand whether a changed environment would relate to changes in working practices; and ultimately a more engaged and innovative workforce; drawing on the use of reflective practice and decision making within.

Personal Reflections and Observations on my DBA journey

The doctoral journey has led to my own personal reflections in relation to learning and education. I have been through some real highs – for example completing the taught element of the course and subsequently succeeding in passing my DB2 research proposal and having that written confirmation that says “yes” (just like the man from Del Monte!); and some real lows. At the start of the course when you are never sure of what is considered to be Level 8 the feedback from my first assignment led me to doubt my own abilities and made me want to give up; thankfully I have supportive friends, family and colleagues who reminded me that this was a journey and I wasn’t supposed to be the expert in the first assignment! This also led me to reflect on the feedback we give to students and this is an area to consider as they enter each different level of study whether it be levels 4,5,6 or 7, it is being able to articulate clearly the requirements of their written work; perhaps showing examples to take away the fear of the unknown.

Another element has been the research itself, I have spoken to 12 individuals who have shared some intimate thoughts and feelings about their working and personal practices and I am honoured that they felt comfortable enough to share this with me. Equally the emailed responses that people took time to write a reasonable amount of text to allow me to further interrogate the questions raised. It never ceases to amaze me how giving people can be when they are asked to participate. For the majority of the emailed students, they have finished their studies and are now part of our alumni and therefore had no benefit of completing the questions, apart from to help me in my studies, as I hope I have helped them in theirs.

I have also learned not only new skills in my level of research and writing, but also personal skills to be able to focus and concentrate whilst working at home alone. I am notoriously bad at “being alone” and this experience has actively encouraged me to work in this way, and at first I found it very difficult, but I have learned to embrace the quiet and no longer have the need for there to be lots of exterior noise (radio, television etc.). I am aware of my own natural temperament of sanguine (Steiner, 1944) which means that I am the social animal and like to be around people so this has really taken me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to develop my melancholic temperament in not only working alone, but also in engaging in a more analytical state of mind and focusing on the detail.

I surprised myself in how engaged I became in the philosophical experience, and found myself reading and reading about hermeneutics and its historical background. This was an area where I found myself devouring literature and wanting to read more to the point where I had to make myself stop, otherwise this could have become a thesis on hermeneutics as opposed to a thesis on reflective practice and facilities management.

My meltdown came when trying to engage with and write the conclusion chapter, the panic set in, the black mist came down over my head and I felt trapped in the darkness, the “so what” element kept crossing my mind. I decided to draw on other people’s thoughts from “Dr Google” on the final chapter - “most important part of the thesis”; “I have failed people based on a poor conclusion”.

So that was no help whatsoever, in fact I then felt more anxious. One website page talked about it being the letting go of the research and I reflected on this, as this research has been in my mind for the best part of four years, this was like ensuring the final ‘send off’ was the best it could have been. I hadn’t sensed fear before on this journey, but here it was mind-numbingly here! I felt frozen in the moment, unable to breathe or think, how was I to get around this? I eventually regained my calm, spoke to my supervisor Phil (again I am indebted to him for his support) and he reinforced that I was on the right lines, and the smoke started to clear! I have further reflected on this, and for someone that declares a confident outlook, I found it interesting that my fear sat with the thought of finishing and being ‘judged’ in some way. I think this comes back to the start of this journey when I initially had some negative feedback, and this has evidenced how feedback again stays with you and I need to ensure that as I write feedback for my students, I maintain a constructive approach that equally encourages them to continue to grow.

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