Change within the probation service : evaluation from an action research perspective

Fineman, Steve and Eden, Colin (1979) Change within the probation service : evaluation from an action research perspective. Personnel Review, 8 (2). pp. 30-35. ISSN 0048-3486 (

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The present account results from twelve months of the authors' involvement with a probation service undergoing change. The change was initiated by an external body to the service and was based upon an apparently plausible rationale. Nevertheless considerable difficulties arose in the implementation of the change and these have provided some specific insights into the functioning of the organisation, and the values, attitudes and beliefs of some of its key decision-makers. The data have also formed the basis of an action research programme (which is currently underway) and have generated substantive material from which to draw conclusions concerning the salient factors affecting the change. We believe that these conclusions, which form the core of this article, have particular implications for the management of change in professional settings, such as research and development, schools and further education establishments. These settings, like a probation service, are characteristically client centred, where the professionals ‘… are trained on the outside, usually at the public expense, and a large number of rules are inculcated into them. They bring these into the organization and are expected to act upon them without further reference to their skills’. Furthermore we consider that the essence of our findings has important implications for any organisation where internal or external change agents are attempting to bring about change.