|REMOTE ADMINISTRATION OF REPERTORY GRIDS
THROUGH MICROSOFT LIVE MEETING IN AN ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT
Johnson & Johnson
Medical, Pomezia, Italy
Repertory grids are a flexible form of assessment that new web conferencing
tools allow to administer at distance. This study refers to a specific
experience in this direction conducted at Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy,
where 12 managers have been exposed to the remote administration of repertory
grids that were designed and managed through Idiogrid and administered via
Microsoft Live Meeting. The experience was reported as highly positive by
of engagement and interest it generated. Ideas for further research and
applications are presented at the end of the paper with some highlights and
concerns on the application of this methodology in organizational contexts.
Keywords: Repertory grid, Idiogrid, Insider
Management Action Science, Microsoft Live Meeting.
This paper presents and discusses the results of a preliminary study
conducted at Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy as part of a wider program
named Value Driven Training. The program was launched early in January 2010 and
concentrates on the investments that Johnson & Johnson Medical is making on
the training of Area Sales Managers operating in Italy, where 70% of Johnson
& Johnson Medical sales depend on tenders. An extensive use of repertory
grids (Kelly, 1955) was planned, as part of the program and a pilot study was
therefore conducted, to evaluate the possibility to administer repertory grids,
leveraging on new technologies and reducing costs and time required by more
While the overall objective of the Value Driven Training program is to
identify areas of development, relevant to increase Area Sales Managers’
capabilities to impact tenders outcomes – through key stakeholders’ recognition
of the quality of Johnson & Johnson products, the focus of the pilot study
was to test a specific solution for the remote administration of repertory
grids. The writing illustrates briefly this pilot experience and reports
various considerations around the technological choice that was tested within
this preliminary study. The experience was conducted at Johnson & Johnson
Medical Italy and involved the remote administration of repertory grids via a
web conferencing system: both the description and the evaluation of such
experience are detailed here below. Despite the heavy use of statistics that
sustains the development and the analysis of repertory grids, this study is
qualitative, both in its form (engaging a relatively small number of subjects)
and in its nature (descriptive rather than predictive). The extensive use of
numbers, graphics and quantitative jargon should not mislead readers in this respect.
The primary aim of the pilot study was to stimulate further ideas and to
address areas of concern that the Company wanted to have cleared, before
proceeding with the adoption of repertory grids as a tool of investigation on
learning needs of Area Sales Managers. The analysis was in this sense
exploratory and part of it converged on the level of acceptance that a peculiar
web enhanced rep grid administration could encounter, within Johnson &
Johnson Medical Italy. The pilot experience was driven by the Human Resource
Department of Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy and it involved a panel of 12
employees: 3 Area Sales Managers, 3 Divisional Mangers, 3 Key Account Managers,
and 3 Managers in Business Support functions. The panel was formed on the basis
of the specific themes and aspects that the company intended to assess with
reference to the applied methodology. External support was kindly guaranteed by
Professor James Grice – University of Oklahoma (USA), Professor Susan
Cartwright and Philip Gibbs – University of Lancaster (UK).
Management Action Science (Gummesson, 2000) is the general methodological
perspective underpinning the Value Driven Training program and the related
study here reported. Since their very beginning these initiatives shared the
ambition to integrate practical problem solving with theory and change. They
have leveraged on research to integrate the production and the use of
organizational knowledge, through the direct involvement of employees whose roles
appeared relevant, with respect to the themes under inquiry and the practical
implications of findings.
Given the leading role that the HR of Johnson and Johnson Medical Italy
played in this research, and considered the communalities of this experience with
other studies, associated with Insider Action Research (Coghlan, 2001, 2005),
the methodological approach here applied might be more appropriately and
specifically renamed Insider Management Action Science.
There are three main factors that have influenced the research approach and
could in fact substantiate the above renaming:
|1. ||the pre-understanding –
originating from the researcher being an insider (Coghlan, 2007) – that some
meaningful organizational competences and knowledge were neither internally nor
externally ready available;|
|2.||the perfect matching between
Johnson & Johnson Medical practice to rely on external experts when
addressing knowledge shortages and the opportunity, through such external
observers – as theorized by Management Action Science (Gray, 2009) – to address
the ambiguity that may derive from the practitioner-researcher role duality
|3. ||some considerations on
organizational culture and politics (Coghlan, 2007) that led to exclude
unidirectional approaches, as well as Participatory Action Research – as the
level of sharing of control, between researchers and participants, was judged
insufficient in one case and too high and demanding in the other (Whyte, 1991).
Writings by Whyte (1991) on Action Science, by Gummesson (2000), Gray
(2009) on Management Action Science and by Coghlan (2001, 2005, 2007) on
Insider Action Research have been fundamental to define the general
methodological framework of this study and in taking decisions on its design
and implementation, as well as on methods that were used.
THE PILOT EXPERIENCE
Theoretical grounds and practical challenges
Repertory Grids date back to Kelly’s (Kelly, 1955) application of the
personal construct psychology in clinical and in teaching environments. As
Gaines and Shaw (1992) already pointed out, almost a decade ago, Kelly’s ‘repertory
grid’ is a widely accepted technique for knowledge elicitation, and repertory
grids have been often implemented as a major component of many knowledge
acquisition systems that the two authors also contributed to develop
significantly, with their work.
In the typical repertory grid, (Grice, 2002) individuals are asked to rate
or rank a number of elements – usually people or tangible things – along a
series of bipolar construct scales. The elements and constructs can be either
directly elicited from the individual or provided by the Interviewer, and any
number of elements or constructs can be included in a particular grid.
Two-dimensional matrixes, formed by numerical values, result eventually from
sets of standardized rating or ranking processes; these grids are then
subsequently subjected to additional statistical analyses and graphing
procedures that produce pictorial representations of individuals and/or group
While particularly appealing for the possibilities they offer, repertory
grids have some peculiarities (Yorke, 1978), as a form of assessment, and their
administration necessitates therefore close assistance. Preceding the
administration of repertory grids with a presentation of the methodology to
individuals, or groups, involved in assessment sessions is more the norm, than
an exception. Even when computer aided solutions are implemented – either to
support the elicitation, the collection and/or the analysis of responses – a
form of guidance by trained facilitators is ensured and they frequently stay in
the proximity, while participants complete their grids. Repertory grid
administration in one-to-one and face-to-face sessions is so common that the
methodology can be assimilated to a form of structured interview, and in fact
some authors (Yorke, 1978) refer to this methodology as rep grid interviewing.
Unfortunately, the need of close supervision during repertory grid
administration is not always compatible with the real life constraints that
characterize some organizational initiatives, as it happens to be the case with
the Value Driven Training program. At Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy
repertory grids had to be administered to people part of the commercial field
force; these individuals reside in different locations around the country and
have very little possibility to leave their territories uncovered to undergo
face-to-face sessions at the main company offices in Rome. Travelling costs
restrictions and limited time availability indicated, since the very beginning,
that a solution to enable a distance completion of repertory grids was to be
found. At the same time, considerations on participants’ academic backgrounds
and variegated experiences made it very clear that adequate guidance, during
repertory grid sessions, could not be skipped.
Technology enhanced solutions
Although they have been used since more than half a century, repertory
grids are not very well known, outside of the psychology assessment circuit.
Within that specific environment though – particularly in the areas of
psychotherapy and research on cognition – many computer based solutions have
been developed during the last 50 years and these have simplified constructs
elicitation, analyses and representation. Such computer programs can in most
cases manage multiple grids at the same time, integrating these on the basis of
different research purposes and choices.
The awareness of the above specific challenges and the decision to leverage
on ready available technologies, led to compound two already existing
softwares – Idiogrid (Grice, 2002) and Microsoft Live Meeting – and test their
synergic deployment within Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy.
As Grice (2002) summarized in his article dedicated to the presentation of
Idiogrid, a wide variety of computer
programs have been developed over the years to conduct analyses that are
particular to repertory grid data and manage large numbers of grids
simultaneously. Many of these programs though have become outdated, are limited
with respect to their features, or are not available for the Windows operating
system on the personal computer. On the other hand, Idiogrid is a computer
program for analyzing repertory grids that runs under the Windows operating system
and offers recently updated versions. Idiogrid – in its 2.4 version – was the
software eventually used at Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy. Descriptive
statistics, principal components analysis, grid comparison techniques, and
coordinate grid analysis are all available in the software. A number of indices
commonly applied to repertory grids are also computed by the software that also
supports the production of text output as well as high-resolution graphics. Due
to its full compatibility with the Windows environment, Idiogrid could be run
with Microsoft Live Meeting, leveraging on all the options that this web
conferencing service offers. Microsoft Live Meeting was used in this study in
conjunction with Idiogrid to support the remote administration of repertory
Live Meeting is a web conferencing service operated by Microsoft, and like
Idiogrid it is available for free download on the web. For the pilot experience
at Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy, both the softwares were installed on
the Interviewer's PC, and from this they were operated. A feature that made the
synergic use of the two solutions particularly attractive was the fact that
Live Meeting is a form of convergence software and it allows full integration
with audio conferences. Furthermore, in the use of standard features of Live
Meeting, Interviewers can either maintain or delegate to participants the full
control of sessions. Different degrees of autonomy can then be easily arranged
by the Interviewer, on the basis of needs and/or requests of each participant,
and changes, in this respect, can be made even during the session. In this
specific pilot experience, individuals were involved in one-to-one sessions and
they were granted with a full remote control onto Idiogrid. As a result each
participant could work from her/his own location (either office or home) and
use Idiogrid, as if this were installed on her/his PC, by being linked to the
web in audio-teleconference. Idiogrid was in fact running out of the Interviewer’s
computer, and this could guide each participant, real time and step-by-step via
audio inputs, while monitoring on his screen how the session was proceeding. In
this specific case, participants had no cameras installed on their PCs,
therefore the most complete video-teleconference feature, supported by Microsoft
Life Meeting, was not tested. Thanks to the compounded use of these two
softwares the interviewer could closely supervise and support each participant.
At the end of the web sessions, grids were saved on the Interviewer’s PC, and
they were therefore immediately available for analysis within Idiogrid.
Experiencing remote administration of Idiogrid
A brief description of the pilot experience that
Participants underwent and were subsequently asked to evaluate, is summarized
in its key phases here below. Screen shots of the compound use of Idiogrid and
Microsoft Live Meeting are also included as they facilitate the visualization
of what each participant had to confront with, in practice, during each
Following the January launch of the Value Driven
Training program, early in April 2010, the 12 employees involved in this study received
an invitation via email, from the HR department of Johnson and Johnson Medical
Italy, to participate in a one-to-one Live Meeting Session. Each participant
had been previously informed – either via telephone or email of her/his
inclusion in the experience, and when s/he connected to a web-conference, s/he
was welcomed by the Company Human Resource Director, who acted as Interviewer. After
having given the control of the session to the Participant, the Interviewer
stayed on line for assistance until individual repertory grids were completed:
being in full control of the sessions, Participants keyed their own responses
directly into the system.
Out of the 12 participants, 5 were females and 7 males, 2 had only high
school diplomas, 4 had a university degree in science or engineering, 6 had a
University degree in Business Studies/Economics or related subject; the average
and media age was 42, the youngest participant being 37 and the oldest 47.
Seniority within Johnson and Johnson ranged from 1 till 19 years, the average
being 11 and median being 13.
Each session lasted about 30 minutes and was run via the company standard
web-conferencing system – Live Meeting. The phrase completion option (Grice et al., 2004) that Idiogrid offers among its standard selection was adopted as method
for eliciting repertory grid’s constructs. Elicited constructs were eventually
complemented with two sets of objective reference achievements, namely the
number of tenders won and the quality scores that Johnson & Johnson Medical
products obtained during the past 3 years, in the territories that the above
three Area Sales Managers had covered. Correlations between emerging constructs
and objective achievements in tenders were then used to guide discussions on
future possible developments of Area Sales Managers’ training within Johnson
& Johnson Medical Italy.
welcome message (Figure 1), appearing on the screen as soon as Participants logged into
the web conference, briefly explained the task and reassured individuals about
the time and the assistance at their disposal as you can read from the extract
“Take as much time as you need to work through each phase, and be as honest
as possible with your thoughts and responses.
You will also find that the
following procedures are novel. Do not be intimidated, however, by the program.
As you progress you will get used to the procedures, and in several places you
can go back and correct mistakes that you think you may have made. Nonetheless,
if you become unsure of yourself in any phase, please stop and ask the
assistant for help.”
The welcome screen then introduced Participants
to the following 3 phases:
of Elements on the defined constructs.|
Despite the numerous variations in repertory
grids application and the very many adaptations that followed Kelly’s earliest
discussions of the method, the above three phases seem to characterize most
experiences. It must be said though that evidence exists (Neimeyer & Hagans, 2002) that even little variations, in the way each
phase is dealt with, have significant impacts on the outcomes that the
technique produces. For this reason, while presenting each phase that was
followed in the pilot experience, a few words will be also spent on key choices
that were made in the customization and preparation of Idiogrid for its
application at Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy.
Identification of the Elements –
Participants were asked to name either by First Name, Surname or Nickname three
Area Sales Managers of Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy acting in defined
The selection of elements is a critical
component in repertory grid research, and as Stringer (1979) clearly pointed
exhaustively the use of particular individuals as elements in the grid produce
greater differentiation than the use of more global role descriptions. This
finding led him to conclude that “different forms of the grid . . . do not
elicit the same kinds of construing” (p.96), and that “there were considerable
alterations in the structure of their personal constructs when they moved from
construing roles to construing individuals, or vice versa” (p. 98).
Although this option appeared sensible in Johnson & Johnson Medical
pilot study, there are situations when this might not be the case. Wright and
Simon (2002) affirmed in fact that in eliciting constructions of more complex
managerial and organizational realities such as culture, appraisal systems, and
the like a more heterogeneous set of elements will better demonstrate a fuller
and more meaningful range of representativeness of such a domain of interest. The two authors affirm convincingly that
focusing on the interaction and comparison between individuals limits the
understanding of the system as a whole.
Generating Constructs – through a
sentence completion exercise (Grice et al., 2004),
each participant was then led through the elicitation of constructs.
The adoption of a sentence completion approach
for eliciting constructs (Figure 2), followed the examination of literature that was
produced in the early nineties and that has been more recently echoed and developed
by Neimeyer and Hagans (2002), as well as Grice, et al. (2004). The latest authors, in particular,
examined various procedures for eliciting personal constructs and proposed the
approach that was eventually applied in this study. The sentence completion
approach emulates with its narrative format a layout that results relative
familiar to individuals and in this respect it come across as simpler and less
confusing than traditional Kelly’s triadic procedure.
Difficult to say what the situation would have
been if a different elicitation methodology was applied and further research in
this direction would certainly be an interesting next step. In the specific
case Idiogrid was customized with reference to the needs that were expected to
emerge with its administration within the Johnson & Johnson Medical
environment. With the target participants to the study being all Managers, with
little background on psychological themes, it appeared more appropriate to
confront them with an elicitation procedure that, even in its format,
facilitated their task. This decision proved very appropriate as the number of
interventions and explanations required from the Interviewer during the pilot
experience were indeed limited. All interactions with the Interviewer, in this
respect, were real-time audio exchanges on technical issues: supporting Participants
in their navigation of the system and/or in using Idiogrid options to amend/complete
Participants were asked to rate the
elements, named in phase 1, along the constructs that they had defined in phase
2 and grids were then obtained as a result of the session (Figure 3).
This pilot study adopted a 7-points rating
scale: this choice reflects Miller’s (1956) experiments and recommendations
when he identifies in the neighborhood of seven a clear and definite limit to
the accuracy with which an individual can identify absolutely the magnitude of
a unidimensional stimulus variable. Miller (1956) proposed to call this limit
the span of absolute judgment and it is since the early studies, in the early
fifties, that this span of absolute judgment and the span of immediate memory
are taken by social scientists as a reliable reference to account for the
limitations imposed on individuals, by the amount of information that they are
able to receive, process, and remember.
Each session ended with the Interviewer thanking
the Participant and informing her/him that s/he would have been updated about
the pilot study outcomes in a later stage. Before closing each session individuals
were also invited to ask questions and/or make comments on the tool and the
experience, but no question, doubts of fear emerged at this stage. The only
queries were focused on to the next steps of the program and on the kind of
involvement that these were expected to require from them.
EVALUATIVE STUDY OF THE PILOT EXPERIENCE
Two weeks after their participation in the pilot experience, where they had
been exposed to a remote Idiogrid session, the same 12 individuals were
contacted, via email, and they were asked to respond to a questionnaire, that
had been specifically designed to gather feedback on the pilot study. The
questionnaire aimed at investigating how each individual evaluated the
technology enhanced approach that had been employed, in terms of
user-friendliness, overall accessibility and potential for future developments
within Johnson & Johnson.
Focus of the inquiry and questionnaire design
Repertory Grids have been already used within learning contexts to define
training needs and to assess training results (Smith & Ashton, 1975; Solas, 1992; Kreber, Castleden, Erfani, Lim, & Wright,
2003). What has limited their use in organizational
contexts is the fact that their face-to-face administration is not very
compatible with business constraints. The remote administration tested and
assessed at Johnson and Johnson Medical Italy, in the pilot study above,
demonstrated the technical possibility to leverage on web conferencing
solutions to overcome some limits, but it originated the following research
How would Johnson & Johnson Medical
Employees react to the remote administration of Repertory Grids?
a. Would they be able to follow easily remote instructions?
b. Would they find the task sufficiently engaging?
Alternative methods of enquiry were considered (interviews, ad hoc designed
repertory grids, etc), but like in the case of the Pilot Experience the
difficulty to reach a group of people dispersed on a large territory, with very
busy diaries, imposed major constraints and guided the choice. A simple
questionnaire addressing directly the areas of concern that the Company wanted
to clear and capable to offer Participants an opportunity to express openly
their thoughts and ideas appeared the most appropriate choice. Among the
various on line possibilities to publish the questionnaire, gather and analyze
responses, Google Docs, was eventually selected for its simplicity. It must be
noted that although repertory grids could have been used for the same purpose,
the circularity that their use would have originated in the study (the method
assessed would have been used in the assessment) determined their exclusion
from the possible alternatives.
Being all participants mother tongue Italian, this was the language used
for the questionnaire that was titled ‘Feedback on the Use of Microsoft Live
Meeting to run Surveys within Johnson and Johnson Medical’ to drive immediately
the attention on the specific intent of the survey. A brief text introduced the
questionnaire and addressed general consent and ethics matters, as imposed by
the nature of the research and by the context where it took place. Please also
note that, in respect to Johnson & Johnson business priorities and to the
time availability of Participants, a clear decision was made to limit the
questionnaire both in scope and in length. On this regard, the principle
leading its design was that the compilation should not exceed 10 minutes.
Text used to introduce the
questionnaire to participants
The following questionnaire
has been sent to individuals who participated to the first phase of the Value
Driven Training program. The questionnaire is meant to gather feedback on the
remote administration of Repertory Grids via Microsoft Live Meeting.
The questions are designed
to address the following key points:
reactions to the specific way of data gathering as alternative to more
traditional face-to-face approaches;
possible difficulties that might have been encountered in the experience;
opinions and suggestions about the possible use of the same approach in other circumstances.
Participation in the
survey is expected to take just a few minutes and results will allow a more
effective use of tools like Live Meeting within Johnson & Johnson.
Participation to this
survey is on voluntary basis. Analyses that may be part or follow this research
will be conducted by people who have signed specific agreements to guarantee
the participants’ right to their privacy. By compiling this questionnaire, each
participant agrees and authorizes the archiving and use of the deriving data
also in future studies and by external researchers.
will be analyzed in anonymous format and only in such form they will be shared
within and/or outside the organization. For further info please refer to the HR
Department of Johnson & Johnson Medical Italy.
There were 4 core questions that Participants were invited to answer:
|1. ||Have you ever
participated in any kind of survey before the one that was recently conducted
as part of the Value Driven Training program?
|2.||Have you ever been
involved in a process of Training Need analysis, before the one you took part
to with the Value Driven Training program?|
|3. ||How would you rate the
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY OF THE EXPERIENCE – for the definition of the training
needs of Area Sales Managers – you recently did via Live Meeting?|
|4.||How would you rate the
LEVEL OF ENGAGEMENT OF THE ABOVE EXPERIENCE?
Each of the above was compulsory and closed but was accompanied by an open
query that allowed participants to offer details, comments and suggestions. In
the case of question 1, 3 and 4, discretionary integrations were prompted by a
simple “Please offer further details” that led to an open text, in the case of
question 2, on the other hand, Participants were invited to choose among 5
checkboxes (traditional face-to-face interviews, paper and pencil
questionnaire, computer based tools, web based Systems, others) and Individuals
could select more than one. In the summary of the results that follows in the
paper such inputs and additions are fully reported.
It must be noted that while the first two questions allowed only yes/no
answers, the last two asked the subjects to rate the difficulty of the
experience and the level of engagements it generated, on a 7 points scale –
where 1 corresponded to the most favorable rating (respectively: Very Simple
and Engaging) while 7 was associated with the least positive assessment
(Extremely difficult and Boring).
The invitation to participate to this study was sent via email with a link
to a web based questionnaire developed, run and administered using Google Docs.
The invitation was delivered via email to all 12 participants on May 3rd,
2010. Here below are some graphics that summarize the data collected since
then (Figure 4).
Outcomes of the questionnaire
Out of the 12 subjects who were invited to participate, 8 almost
immediately responded and did the questionnaire; all responses concentrated
during the first two days from the receipt of the invitation. Considering the
participation to the study was on a voluntary basis and the questionnaires were
anonymous, the registered 67% response rate appears satisfactory.
Out of the 8 respondents, 3 declared they had taken part in surveys before
and 5 affirmed they had not (Figure 5). This result appeared quite unusual as all Johnson
& Johnson employees are periodically exposed to a climate survey – all
climate surveys are anonymous and voluntary so, although it appears strange
that 63% of our respondents never took part in such initiatives, the limited
size of the sample and the fact that it was predominantly formed by people
working in the field might explain this result.
Some more details were offered by two of the 3 respondents who replied
affirmatively to this question.
|-||One subject quoted surveys on
organizational climate and 360° feedbacks among her/his previous experiences.
|-||The other respondent specified
that while most of her/his previous exposures were to pencil and paper formats,
the few that made use of new technologies (computer and/or web based) were not
characterized by a comparable level of interaction that s/he had experienced in
this specific circumstance.
Significantly high is, on the other hand, the experience that respondents
declared in terms of participation in training needs analysis processes (Figure 6). In
this case in fact 75% affirmed that they had previously been involved in such
activities. These were predominantly run through traditional methods
(face-to-face interviews and pencil & paper questionnaires), but some have
also participated in some form of technology enhanced (PC or Web based)
When it comes to the evaluation of their experience with the remote
administration of Idiogrid, via Microsoft Live Meeting, the results appear very
positive: the majority of respondents assessed this form of administration
manageable and in most cases easy to use (Figures 7 and 8). Only one participant indicated a
score higher than 4.
Additional comments were offered by three participants:
|-||One subject indicated that s/he
found the methodology used very accessible from the technology point of view
and s/he had experience only some difficulty in responding some questions that
s/he thought might have requested some more reflection.
|-||A second participant said that
s/he did not experience any technical problem but suggests preceding Live
Meeting sessions with pretest of web connections.
|-||A third respondent commented
that s/he found the system simple but was not in the situation to evaluate the
quality of the data provided/gathered through the administered grids. |
Even more positive were the responses in terms of engagement (Figure 9). No response
higher than level 3 and the vast majority 75% rated the compound use of
Idiogrid and Microsoft Live Meeting 2, which shows a high level of interest.
Overall the above results answer positively to the research questions that
originated this study. In fact all responses indicate that the remote
administration of repertory grids, employing Idiogrid via Microsoft Live
Meeting, was well received: this technology enhanced solution was found easy
and engaging. There does not seem to be any negative aspect – in terms
participants’ feedback – that shadows the practical advantages this approach
offers in those organizational contexts where Interviewers and
Participants/Subjects do not reside in the same location and when face-to-face
sessions are neither practical nor possible.
In addition to what was highlighted by the responses to the last two
questions of the survey, there is an additional advantage with the technical
solution adopted: it guarantees that repertory grids are produced, stored and
analyzed on one single computer (in this case the Interviewer’s). This does not
only speed up the processes of data collection and analysis, but it also
responds adequately to the strict standards on privacy and data protection that
are imposed by European laws and Johnson & Johnson regulations.
REFLECTIONS ON OUTCOMES AND IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE
The most positive outcomes of this small-scale study, on remote
administration of repertory grids, is that respondents appreciated and valued
the possibility to get support from the Interviewer, each time they had doubts
and/or encounter technical difficulties. This fact apparently influenced
positively their perception of the entire experience and this element emerged
quite clearly, both from the core responses to the questionnaire and from the
side comments/integrations that some individuals wrote. The high response rate
to the questionnaire could also be read positively, in this specific
perspective: as a bad experience with Idiogrid via Microsoft Live Meeting would
have naturally discouraged Participants from responding to the questionnaire.
Besides the above outcomes, additional elements emerged from the
questionnaire and from direct observations by the Interviewer during the
sessions. These suggest caution when extending the above approach to different
organizational contexts and circumstances. In fact, despite the written and verbal
reassurance that they were not to worry about the time they needed to complete
the exercise, some participants clearly rushed through the experience as if the
presence of the Interviewer – although at distance – compelled them to perform
efficiently. Such behavior might be ascribed to different and various causes
but there are two synergic factors that might require a further attention and
|- ||The audio conference option
that was used in this study prevented the Interviewer from supporting Participants
through non-verbal reassuring signals, and this silent waiting presence may
well have induced some disturbing fantasies;|
|-||The Interviewer was, in this
case, the Human Resource Director – whose role in the western industrial
imaginary is often associated with the metaphor of the “watchdog” of
Should the relevance of any of the above be confirmed and the inhibiting
effect of a remote and non-directly-observable Interviewer be flagged by
further research, a video rather than a audio web assistance could be
alternatively tested and proposed, as effective substitute to traditional
face-to-face repertory grids sessions.
There is also an Ethics dimension that requires some reflection. This study
was conducted within an organizational context, where the Human Resource
Director was directly involved in the research as the Interviewer and where
Participants covered different jobs at different levels of the hierarchical
ladder and also belonged to different functions. With the exception of what was
already discussed in the previous paragraph, all the other factors just quoted
did not seem to have significantly distorted either the dynamics or the results
of this research. The very practical focus of the survey – that simply assessed
the level of comfort of people with a specific technological option – has most
probably limited the impact of status and power dynamics, on the responses that
were eventually gathered. The impact of such dynamics would have been
presumably more relevant, should the study have focused on more delicate
personal or career themes. In such cases the use of external Interviewers, as
recommended by Polonsky (1998), would have been certainly more
appropriate and advisable.
In this study Microsoft Live Meeting was used in its simplest form, during
one-to-one sessions: more complex services can be leveraged through the same
software. For example, it can be noted that in a more sophisticated approach,
but always within the standard options offered by Microsoft Live Meeting, the Interviewer
could have recorded each session and could have saved each recording – in the
Windows Media Player format (.wma) – to either Live Meeting service conference
center or on his own computer, for later analysis and research. The
availability of recordings would have opened further and interesting
opportunities of research: these could in fact enrich and extend the outcomes
of repertory grid sessions, from a qualitative viewpoint. Repetitive
observations of participants doing their grids are likely, on the other hands,
to highlight their difficulties in completing the task; such difficulties, once
computed and analyzed, would constitute valuable material to either refine grid
elicitation procedures, or to guide more in-depth reading/understanding of
||Coghlan, D. (2001). Insider
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The author thanks Professor James Grice –
University of Oklahoma (USA), Professor Susan Cartwright and Philip Gibbs –
University of Lancaster (UK) who encouraged the publication of the present
Dr Luca Magni has worked for a wide range of Multinationals in Europe and he is
presently at Johnson and Johnson Medical, where he acts as Human Resources Director
of the recently formed Mediterranean Cluster. Besides his activity as a Manager,
over the past 20 years he authored and coauthored a number of studies within
the area of Learning, Problem Solving, Transactional Analysis, Leadership,
Change Management, Mergers and Acquisitions. His most recent research interests are in the area of technology enhanced
reflective learning and its possible contribution to organizational
sense-making and strategy development.
Dr Luca Magni
HR Director, Mediterranean Cluster, J&J Medical
Via del Mare, 56
00040 Pratica di Mare
Pomezia (RM), Italy
Magni, L. (2010). Remote
administration of repertory grids through Microsoft Live Meeting in an
Construct Theory & Practice, 7, 49-64, 2010
(Retrieved from http://www.pcp-net.org/journal/pctp10/magni10.html)
|Received: 24 May 2010 – Accepted: 2 August 2010 –
Published: 7 August 2010