5 Ways to Cultivate Evidence Based Management

In my last post I argued for E.B.M. (evidence based management) as an approach that will help you:

  • Make the best possible decisions
  • As fast as possible
  • At the lowest possible cost

Here are some suggestion on how to promote E.B.M. in your own organisation.

1. Change your own mind

Management deals with social problems, not mechanical problems. You are managing people, not machines, so you must deal with emotions, wants and needs. All these things shift over time, so a solution that works today may not work next week. E.B.M. requires a consistent process for setting goals, reviewing outcomes and learning lessons.

2. Get more than one perspective on your problem

You won’t get the full picture if your data comes from only one source or represents only one view of the world. And your decisions will be imperfect before you’ve even made them. If everybody agrees, how will you know if you’re wrong?

If unconnected sources verify each other, your data is more trustworthy.

3. Test your data for accuracy and relevance

Always test the quality of your information. Your M.I. systems should include direct, consequential accountability for data integrity but you should hold people to account only for the things that they can control. Calling people out for things that they can’t control is a recipe for poor morale.

If people present something as “good” or “bad”, what is the basis for this value judgement? Data becomes information when we compare or contrast it with a reference point. Such as a target, a benchmark or a trend.

4. Test your targets for usefulness

When setting performance targets look at what the boss wants and what is happening on the shop floor.  Let the top-down and bottom-up views meet halfway. This brings a good balance of aspiration and realism.

When reviewing performance, review the targets as well as the outcomes. You might have missed the target but perhaps it was – with the benefit of hindsight – not such a good target after all.

5. Allow your people to respond

It is good to give your staff knowledge and skills but it is not enough.

When they realise something is wrong they will want to respond to it. Then the will feel in control of the situation. This is a powerful motivator, and will cement shop floor acceptance of your E.B.M. approach.

Delegating the authority to make decisions is a leap of faith. The leap is far easier if you know that your people are making their decisions well — so test the approach.  This is a core benefit of E.B.M. and your people will thank you for it.

Oliver Cunningham helps people make better decisions faster at Active Ops

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  1. Oliver,

    I really enjoyed your post, there were lots of ideas to think about but I have one question.

    How do you know when it is right to delegate authority for decision making? Clearly not everybody should be making decisions about everything so how do you decide who can decide about what?


    • Hello Macey

      Thank you for the compliment; I’m pleased you got some value from the piece. To your question… I’m not sure I can adequately answer it in just one go! It’s a really rich discussion point – there might be a dissertation topic in there! But some points to consider include:

      1. Are you able to make the decision yourself? Do you have the time, the technical expertise and the data?
      2. If no, is there somebody else who has these three things? NB that if you yourself don’t have the technical expertise, it can be very difficult for you to test whether this other person has the technical expertise, which brings us to…
      3. Does this other person have a track record of making good decisions?

      Finally and – in my opinion – most importantly:

      4. What control systems do you have in place to monitor this person’s decisions? These control systems should alert you if (a) this person exceeds his/her mandate, and (b) the area that this person is responsible for starts to perform badly or contrary to expectations.

      Hope this helps.


  2. James Lawther says:

    I think in some ways it is like teaching your children to cross the road.

    You gradually let them cross bigger and busier roads, gaining confidence in their ability as you go

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