«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
Using computer aided coding helped to generate a working map of themes at a preliminary level (Crossley, 2007). This has taken an emergent approach and I have reflected on my initial bias on not using any computer aided coding, but the reality was I had a lot of information from the email questions which I felt I needed to bring into a more “useable and understandable” form 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’. Gummesson (2003:485) also refers to the use of NVivo, identifying that it should not replace individual interpretation but is useful for storing data and providing "structures and hierarchies" which is how it was used in this research. This concurs with my realisation that whilst I found it appropriate to store the emails, with the interviews I felt like it was stepping away from the actor’s voice as I needed to see the full picture including their background and their use of reflective practice, both personally and professionally. The students’ interviews varied in their level of openness in relation to their backgrounds and also their use of reflective practice and that in itself becomes a reflection moving forward to the hermeneutic analysis.
The challenge of hermeneutic analysis is that the findings are based on an interpretation of the text at one specific point in time from a basis of pre understanding and individual perceptions and is therefore unique to the researcher. Other people or even the researcher themselves revisiting the text at a later date could find new interpretations. Hermeneutic analysis is based on my own experiences with the text and to aid my learning or the understanding (verstehen) of the text; understanding being a literal translation of the German word ‘verstehen’.
Ethics With reference to ethical issues, I have been aware that the "social actors" are current or previous students, and therefore I needed to ensure that I was empathic towards their feelings, and ensure the research did no harm. There was a need to be sympathetic to their life stories, and not to hold any prejudgement. There was also an element of managing and declaring my bias, as I teach reflective practice to these students, there may be a tendency to try to show their engagement with reflection so I will need to ensure I do not lead them towards any conclusions and also explore deeper to ensure I am finding some level of "truth" from the social actors. Again, within the hermeneutic cycle I will be reflecting on my own engagement with the information and any changes in my own horizons (Gadamer, 1976).
Another consideration that I needed to explore was one of the teacher as the researcher and the student as the social actors. The majority of the social actors were students who had finished the course, or were in their final year. I emailed all students and alumni to ask for volunteers in my research and none of the social actors were coerced to take part. I also asked them to be open and honest with me, and reinforced the anonymity of their comments throughout the thesis.
Drawing on Miles and Huberman’s (1994) ethical considerations questions, there needs to have been an exploration of worthiness of the project; informed consent; harm and risk; benefits; honesty and trust; privacy, confidentiality and anonymity; and integrity and quality as identified in Table 3.
Table 3: Ethical Considerations
Chapter Summary My research has focused on the use of reflective practice by people working in facilities management. The research aimed to better understand whether facilities managers are using reflective practice in their roles, to understand how this is used and whether they feel that reflective practice has enhanced their personal and/or professional development. To understand this there was a need to explore how FMs through our courses have engaged with reflective practice and to understand whether this has helped them in their professional practice and also in their own personal lives, as the practice should be "lived" (Dewey, 1933). In summary, the purpose of this research was to fully understand how reflective practice has enhanced the personal and professional development of the facilities manager, and also to inform my teaching in relation to reflective
practice for FM. The research will focus on the following drivers:
1) How is reflective practice used by facilities managers?
2) Can reflective practice benefit individuals from a personal perspective and from an organisational/professional perspective To summarise, due to my philosophical position being one of constructivism/social constructionism I have carried out my research through initial email questions to a wide variety of students, through life histories and unstructured discussions and analysing these through a hermeneutic approach.
As Matisse (1953) noted in his Looking at life with the eyes of a child "Nothing I think is more difficult for a true painter than to paint a rose because, before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted", within hermeneutic exploration there is a need to not forget but instead be aware and reflect on all those previous experiences and this has allowed me to be aware of my preunderstanding and past experiences and the impact that this can have on my interpretation of the texts. The research has been emergent and as I have moved through the process there has been changes to the types of questions asked dependent on the interpretation of the voices of the social actors, my own reflections and the literature (Blaikie, 2010). I feel that my links between my philosophical stand point, research strategy and method are aligned and I am therefore comfortable and confident with my research approach.
Chapter 4: The social actors
This chapter will explore the life histories of my social actors; drawing on my observations and reflections from the life histories and also the interview as a whole. As part of my approach to the research, I wanted to create some understanding of the individuals and how they came to be working in facilities management, this draws on the ideas of learning through narratives through a life history or biographical approach (Dhunpath, 2000). I have also drawn on my own life history earlier on the thesis and asked the students to give me some ideas of their background; reinforcing my view of the students being the backbone of this study as discussed in Chapter 1; thus placing the social actors at the centre of the study.
I have created an avatar for each interviewee and all names and organisational names have been removed from the transcripts to retain anonymity. Generally the use of avatars are in online gaming or virtual environments. An avatar is defined as a user-created digital representation that symbolizes the user’s presence in a metaverse (Bailenson et al., 2005).The names given to them were to aid my own recall and to make them easily identifiable and were based on the interview text and also my knowledge of the individuals, the names were based on my subjective interpretation of the social actors.
The backgrounds of the social actors follow and are in no particular order. I felt it was important to include the background to the individuals due to the diversity in facilities management and how individuals find themselves in the industry.
This formed a key part of my preunderstanding of the routes people have taken and also understanding of their educational background as the majority of our students arrive to university with no formal qualifications. Equally as stated within the thesis there has been an open and honest life history to identify myself as the researcher I therefore felt the inclusion of the life histories was a valid understanding of all the participants, including myself. I felt this added to the richness of the research, and therefore has formed a key part of my interpretation. As our students are based all over the UK, due to the delivery method of the course, there is a mixture of face to face interviews and telephone interviews.
Life Histories and my initial interview observations and reflections The biographical narratives following also include gender, age, organisational role and whether they deliver an inhouse or outsourced FM function. I felt the need to include the life histories as part of the document, as I wanted the reader to understand the backgrounds of the social actors involved. After each interview I have noted a descriptive overview (synopsis) of their career and my initial observations and reflections based on not only the life history shown but also the wider interview discussions, and as I engage with the hermeneutic cycle these may change or form a bigger, more holistic picture of the interview group as a whole (Fagerberg and Norberg, 2009). To allow the true unadulterated voice of the actors and to avoid making selective decisions about which interviews to include, the full text of all 12 interviewees has been included.
To reinforce the statement from Hughes and Sharrock (1997:101) “that meanings agents give to their actions and environment, all valid social analysis must refer back to these” I felt it was critical to evidence these within the thesis.
They also refer to the ‘humanistic’ stance alongside the concept of the social actor which aims to recognise their lives as a ‘distinctively human product’ and not just a ‘variable’ (1997:102).
As an overview of the social actors, I have included a table of their role, gender and age. This is to assist with the understanding and knowledge of the social actors and their roles from a reader’s perspective and is in no way meant to gain any statistical information in relation to their biographical details. This also highlights the different roles and responsibilities, and delivery mechanisms within facilities management.
Table 4: Summary of the social actors
Ending up in FM was an accident, well a sort of accident. After school I went into retailing and I worked for three organisations; a small local department store after I left there, then I joined [another organisation]. I had babies, did a bit of journalist work when the children were small, then went and worked in a day nursery doing their admin work and did a bit more when they found what I had done before. When I was made redundant from that job I found a job in the NHS. I had never done facilities before and that is how I ended up in it, just working part time.
I started off as an admin officer working part time and again, when they discovered what I had done before and that I had managed staff and knew about customer service etc., they got me doing more and more work and so I went through a number of promotions, increased hours so that I am now Facilities Manager for [my current organisation].
I look after approximately 100 staff and I have two deputies and a number of other staff and supervisors.
Synopsis, observations and reflections on The Matron Matron worked in retail for some very high profile establishments. She had a family, worked in varying roles including journalism and admin for the nursery her children went to. She was made redundant and applied for an admin role in FM, and then they recognised her skills and she moved into a more generalist FM role.
She is currently using reflective practice in the workplace and actively encourages her two deputies to do the same especially when working on appraisals with staff so that they create a more reflective environment, and she discusses lessening the blame culture which is quite prevalent in the NHS.
She feels that self-awareness is a necessary skill for reflective practice and that without it; it can be hard to reflect. She has quite a natural and open manner, and demonstrates high levels of self-awareness.
This was my first interview and I recognised that I had drawn on reflection inand on- action in my discussion with her, and that perhaps this led the discussion down a particular route. Further reflection on my approach to this interview led to my adaptation of my approach.
I went to quite a good school, but I hated every moment of it. So I left school, because I was very much an average pupil, the school kind of elevated the good pupils and brought the bad pupils up to speed, but the middle of the road people, the Joe Bloggs, I felt were just ignored. I had a chip on my shoulder about school, so I left and went to college at 16 to do photography and art. I didn’t pursue any of it – and design – all this malarkey. I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do and I bummed about for a few years living the high life. Then I fell into menial jobs from there for quite a bit.
Retail, bar work, call centre work- all sorts. Then I did a bit of security work, contract and in-house security for a couple of years. Then I got a job as an account manager for an Italian designer glasses brand, who held a licence for a number of manufacture and distribution. It was just literally just a desk job; sat at a desk on the phone all day. I got to the point where I thought this isn’t doing me any good, around about my mid-twenties- twenty five/twenty six/twenty seven maybe. I thought I have got to do something. So that is when I saw a facilities assistant job come up at [my current organisation] many moons ago, in 2008 and I went for that and got it. Since then I have progressed in that role, very much an auxiliary FM position.
In my daily role I was involved with stuffing post, meeting room set ups, staff moves, orders, you know stock management. I think it was billed as a post room assistant but there wasn’t a great demand for that so it kind of evolved.