Involving everyone in the research process

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To get best results you need to take all your project team with you.

Sometimes the most difficult part of the research process can be getting full buy-in from the project team. This can be especially true when the team have strong opinions on what needs to be done and the research is contradicting this. This can lead to conflict and the validity of the research being questioned. However, there are ways to bring the project team with you and get their buy-in and support at every stage of a project. Let’s explore these.

Consequences if there isn’t buy-in to the research project

It’s simple really. If we don’t ask the right questions, we won’t get the answers to enable us to help staff and customers get the best outcome.

Likewise, if we don’t listen to staff and customers’ feedback then we run the risk of creating a product or service that pleases no-one.

However, there can be some challenges to overcome.


There are a number of challenges involved in doing research in a multidisciplinary project:

  • Preconceptions of what the research will say
  • People attributing opinions to customers “I know my customers”
  • Having a preferred solution before the research takes place
  • Ensuring all views are valued equally (not the most senior opinion)
  • Ensuring the team understands that the purpose of research is not to blindly validate the opinions of the team
  • Explaining the importance of attending a research session
  • Making sure that no-one feels threatened or vulnerable at a feedback session

What we want from a research feedback session

  • To deliver clear and accurate feedback to the project team
  • Each team member feels that their opinion is listened to and given value
  • Avoid cognitive bias colouring the research outputs
  • To ensure no team member feels defensive or under threat when delivering research feedback

How we achieve this  

  • Work to ensure that the team has identified and framed the problems they want to address, you don’t want any surprises after the first session
  • Get research questions clarified (agree what we are trying to learn)
  • Ensure the feedback clearly answers the questions you agreed to answer
  • Make sure that everyone understands the rationale behind the research and how it will be conducted
  • Make sure everyone understands their roles
  • Make sure the opinion of the most senior person in the team is not sought first, leave them until other people have had a chance to speak. This ensures that people don’t just agree with the boss
  • Invite the project team to observe at sessions (create guidelines to give to observers)
  • Involve the project team in the analysis of the research project
  • Clarify at the start how you will communicate findings

Being sensitive to peoples feelings

Sometimes resistance to the research comes from a place of vulnerability or fear:

  • Always be aware of the feelings of the people that you are feeding back to. If a finding is going to be critical of someone’s work, be sensitive and constructive in the way you word it
  • If the feedback is very mixed start off with the positive points first and then deal with the challenging feedback then be sure to finish off with some positive points. This makes it easier for people to accept all the feedback
  • Understand if the feedback could make a team member feel vulnerable, and if so take them through the results before the formal feedback session. This will enable them to collect their thoughts for the session

What I have learnt

To get best results you need to take all your project team with you ensuring that everyone understands their role and the value they add to the process.

People all have different motivations in a team, try to understand those before you begin the project.

Be kind – it pays dividends in good will.

Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded into watering down your findings. Being able to accept criticism is healthy for an oganisation.

Always remember the reason why we do what we do is to make improvements for staff and customers.

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