Evidenced Based Management—Trying Not to be Part of the Problem

The article “Evidence-Based Management” is a breath of fresh air to me.  In my years of management, nothing irritated me more that having to hire big name consultants because someone up the food chain wanted a study that had a consultant’s stamp of approval on it.  One consulting company in particular, who will remain nameless, really made a mess of what could have been a simple study of demand-side management (please excuse my Power Company vernacular).  The worst part of the whole thing was that I didn’t get a say in whom our company selected for the project but I sure as heck got the pleasure of cleaning up the “expert’s” reporting mess.

 Since I am now far enough up the food chain, I generally don’t fall victim to the “brand name” consultancy inclusion in the studies for which I am in charge.  I usually stick with the tried and true research companies that come with a lot of know-how, but not a large price tag.  And, that suits me just fine.

 I think that many managers fall victim to two of the key idea’s presented in this article:  trying to force/bring learnings from a former company to the new one and self fulfilling prophesies.  With respect to bringing learnings to the new company; I think that many senior managers (me included) feel that our new company is buying the best practices of our former company when they hire us.  That is especially true if we are coming from a competitor.   So, we have to figure out what we think worked best at our former company so that we can “show” our new company the value of their human resource purchase (of us).  That said, that is not the true problem.  The problem is that at the point we get the forced system into place, our analysis of the system we are bringing ends.  We just work to implement our system, without understanding if the existing system will support our new system.  

 Self fulfilling prophesizes are a difficult hurdle to get over.  Not only do you have to deal with your own self fulfilling prophesizes, but those of your manager and his manager as well.  My favorite line in the article is certainly timeless (and true): “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

 So what do I do to reduce being part of the problem?  The most important thing is that most of the things I do are test and learn in nature.  I do pilot programs for all the marketing programs I am about to initiate.  We continue using our control group mailings and then select a small area to test a more direct and personalized mailing.  If the test group produces a higher rate of return, we work to make the test mailing into the next control mailing.  By doing this, we reduce the chance we have a complete flop of a mailing.

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