Is the evidence-based management movement dead?
I hope not, but there are many obstacles. Richard Puyt explored this question today on his blog Evidence-Based Management | Skeptical Thinking. He observes that "in management we are still in the middle ages of science, where the alchemists still try to make gold from lead. And by alchemists I mean all types of managers (managers, consultants, coaches, interim-managers, project managers, etc.). One of the reasons why managers still make decisions based on anecdotal evidence, gut feeling or a whim is the fact that management is not a profession.... Management is still treated as a 'skill' and if you have a better story than the next guy, you just found yourself a new career." Puyt makes some good points, concluding that "The Evidence Based Management movement is still there, but progress is really slow. Most developments are exchanged in closed communities and you really have to make an effort to dig up new information and stay in the loop of recent developments."
Here's my quick take on this: The Evidence Soup Guide to Keeping the Evidence-Based Movement Alive.
Part I. How to kill the EBM movement. If people do these things, we'll be writing an obituary:
- Frown on new evidence. Develop an environment where people are discouraged from challenging tradition, scrutinizing old habits, or asking tough questions.
- Oversimplify things that are tremendously complicated. Insist on clearly delineating which decisions are evidence-based, and which are not. Doggedly pursue a set of formal rules for determining precisely whose actions are evidence-based, and whose are not.
- Make evidence exclusive. Behave as if certain insiders (or groups) are the keepers of the evidence, and the rest of us (outsiders) had better sit up straight and pay attention.
Part II. How to pump more life into the EBM movement. Here's how we can nudge EBM into the mainstream:
- Avoid painting all fuzzy stuff with the same brush. Resist the urge to divide the world into two distinct hemispheres: One where all things are evidence-based, and one where people are just plain wrong. It's not that simple, and we should know better.
- Accept that we often lack good evidence. It's better to openly acknowledge where solid evidence is missing than to pretend. It sends the wrong message when we try to force-fit or stretch uninteresting evidence where there is none.
- Set a good example. Encourage people to do things that are evidence-guided (or evidence-informed) every day, to the best of their ability. Create a corporate culture where its okay to ask intelligent questions that challenge authority, myth, and tradition.
- Use smarter technology. Find better ways to distribute more good evidence to more people. Make evidence easier to interpret so people can appreciate its value and apply it more easily.