In a wide range of our projects, budding S-O-Lers have agreed to work in pairs, where one does the work whilst the other observes the other working, and keeps a record of what they are doing from their ‘point of view’. Originally, we as researchers, took this ‘Observational Role’ but we rapidly found that whilst we were learning about the job the people doing the job often remained dubious about our observations. Once we got them working in pairs and swapping the ‘doing’ role with the ‘observing’ role:-

  1. Their observations became much more insightful.
  2. The observer was learning just as much as the person being observed.

We also found, as the learning developed they could work in small groups rotating the Observing and the DOing roles amongst themselves.

Eventually we came to recognise that we, the researchers, were still contributing with our comments about the interaction between Observer and DOer. Gradually both in our courses and later projects the budding SOLers began to serve all three roles,. i.e. the DOer, the Observer, and the Commentator on the relationship between them.

Eventually with larger groups we found that it was always useful to have the DOers meet and talk with each other; have the Observers meet and talk with each other and have the Commentators to also meet and talk with each other. So we began to see that each of them being the DOer, the Observer and the Commentator led to different but very useful insights into the total process. So eventually our courses enabled everybody to rotate through the three roles and to talk firstly with those in the same role and then as whole groups, and the comments that arose from these meetings. Indeed these ‘activities sessions’ became a key contribution to the insights being gained. We have used these observational techniques with students, studying a whole range of different subjects. With workgroups doing a set of jobs in production, supervision and product inspection.

Now whenever we began a new project, we had in a mind the idea of everybody rotating through these observational roles; the DOing, the Checking and the Questioning. Then a general discussion into insights by everybody from everybody are exchanged. As they have all been rotating through these three roles this led to team formation, a shared understanding of the whole process and inevitable continual improvement in the way in which the tasks were achieved.