14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Back to management based on evidence,
This review is from: Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management (Hardcover)Jeffrey Pfeffer is Professor of Organizational Behavior and Robert I. Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. They are the author of business bestseller `The Knowing-Doing Gap' (2000). This book was published in 2006 and consists of 9 chapters.
In the preface the authors explain the result of their exercise: "[This book] is a call for evidence-based management, a case for its potential impact, and a guide on how to use it." They also immediately warn readers: "There are no simple, easy answers, but there are answers." Part I - Setting the Stage - consists of two chapters, whereby the first chapter serves as an introduction into evidence-based management. "Evidence-based management proceeds from the premise that using better, deeper logic and employing facts to the extent possible permits leaders to do their jobs better." And although most managers try to act on the best evidence there is little rigorous use or serious appreciation of evidence-based management. In the second chapter the authors consider key impediments to implementing evidence-based management and how to overcome them. They also offer guidelines and ways of thinking to help organizations turn these ideas into action.
The main body of the book is contained within Part II - Dangerous Half-Truths About Managing People and Organizations - and consists of six chapters. Chapter 2 shows simple but powerful standards for judging which advice and practices advocated in the vast marketplace for business ideas are sound, which are suspect, and which are total nonsense. This is followed by an examination of perhaps the most basic half-truth - "work is fundamentally different from the rest of life and should be." This half-truth is fundamental because so much else follows from it. The organizational practices are quite different than we observe - or at least aspire to - in our personal life. Chapter 4 discusses the half-truth that "the best organizations have the best people", which was embraced during the dot-com boom and still lives on in the "war for talent" imagery. The next chapter examines one of the most deeply held half-truths in the business world, that "financial incentives drive company performance." However the authors' best evidence shows that using them to solve many problems leads organizations to stray from their goals and undermines performance.
The remaining three half-truths move up to the organizational level of analysis, focusing on the challenges of managing the enterprise. For instance, chapter 6 questions whether and when "strategy is destiny". Peffer and Sutton make an evidence-based case that excessive faith in strategic decision making is hazardous to an organization's health. This is followed by an examination of the faulty evidence and logic behind the mantra "change or die". The final chapter of this part considers what leaders are expected to do versus what they actually can and should do. The authors focus on these half-truths because they believe that "leaders who understand why each belief is flawed, and who think hard about the evidence for and against each, can develop more effective and sophisticated approaches to running their organizations."
In the final chapter the authors explain that managers can find and use evidence so their companies can avoid such dreadful journeys. They identify and discuss 9 implementation principles to help people and organizations to commit themselves to profit from evidence-based management. None of these principles will surprise anyone and most are in fact predictable. However, most of us do not always stick to them for a variety of reasons. "The question remains: Who will have the courage and wisdom to do it?"
Yes, I do like this book. Although it does not fundamentally bring any new principles to table, it will help most of us re-focus onto the extremely important task of managing based on evidence, data and facts. Pfeffer and Sutton effectively break down dangerous half-truths and make a compelling case for finding and using evidence to succeed not just in management/business but also in the rest of life. Just one criticism, there could be some more details on methods for gathering data and translating this into evidence.