It was introduced by Kurt Lewin, a German-American social psychologist and one of the first to study group dynamics and organizational development. He talked about action research as a reflective process led by individuals working with others in teams to improve the way they address important issues and solve critical problems. The problem solving group plans, acts, and reviews the results of their actions…and so begins a repetitive cycle of continuous improvement of ten called the wheel of learning.
In the workplace today, the pattern is much the same as that initiated by Lewin at MIT. Typically a team will be led by a trained facilitator to identify a critical problem. Together they will analyze the root cause, plan steps toward solution, and then meet regularly to evaluate success or failure and adjust their actions as needed.