Evidence-Based Management

Evidence-Based Management

Observing that if doctors practiced medicine the way many companies practice management, there would be far more sick and dead patients, and many more doctors would be in jail, professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton 1591398622decided to take a look at the evidenced-based medicine movement. They determined that many of the same principles could be applied to other domains to make our decisions and actions wiser. Evidence-based management is presented in their important new book, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense. The book is really a prequel to their classic The Knowing-Doing Gap. The Knowing-Doing Gap encouraged us to rid ourselves of the impediments to action. It assumes of course, that we have decided to take the right action. According to Hard Facts, that’s a big assumption. “We believe that managers are seduced by far too many half-truths: ideas that are partly right but also partly wrong and that damage careers and companies over and over again. Yet managers routinely ignore or reject solid evidence that these truisms are flawed.” You might reference our article, The Persistence of Vision for more on this issue.

Evidence-based management is really a way of thinking and looking at the world. The mind-set rests on two disciplines: “first, willingness to put aside belief and conventional wisdom—the dangerous half-truths that many embrace—and instead hear and act on the facts; second, an unrelenting commitment to gather the facts and information necessary to make more informed and intelligent decisions, and to keep pace with new evidence and use the new facts to update practices.”

Some specific half truths discussed in the book: The best organizations have the best people; financial incentives drive company performance; change or die; great leaders are in control of their companies.

Instead of following half truths, Pfeffer and Sutton endorse principles such as: Treat your organization as an unfinished prototype; see yourself and your organization as outsiders do; power, prestige, and performance make you stubborn, stupid, and resistant to valid evidence; evidence-based management is not just for senior executives; and ask the best diagnostic question: What happens when people fail?

We will look at more of the concepts from this book in the coming weeks.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has provided a video interview with the authors that is worth watching. (16:32 minutes)

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