Evidence-based management

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Evidence-based management (EBMgt) is an emerging movement to explicitly use the current, best evidence in management decision-making. Its roots are in evidence-based medicine, a quality movement to apply the scientific method to medical practice.

Evidence-based management entails managerial decisions and organizational practices informed by the best available scientific evidence. Like its counterparts in medicine (e.g., Sackett, et al., 2000) and education (e.g., Thomas & Pring, 2004), the judgments EBMgt entails also consider the circumstances and ethical concerns managerial decisions involve. In contrast to medicine and education, however, EBMgt today is only hypothetical. Contemporary managers and management educators make limited use of the vast behavioral science evidence base relevant to effective management practice (Walshe & Rundall, 1999; Rousseau, 2005, 2006; Pfeffer & Sutton, 2001).

An important part of EBMgt is educating current and future managers in evidence-based practices (Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007). The EBMgt website maintained at Stanford University provides a repository of syllabi, cases, and tools that can inform the teaching of evidence-based management.http://www.evidence-basedmanagement.com/ A Facebook-based community also is dedicated to sharing information regarding Teaching Evidence-based Management.

Efforts to promote EBMgt face greater challenges than have other evidence-based initiatives. Unlike, medicine, nursing, education, and law enforcement, "Management" is not a profession. There are no established legal or cultural requirements regarding education or knowledge for an individual to become a manager. Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. A college degree may be required for an MBA – but not to be a manager. No formal body of shared knowledge characterizes managers, making it unlikely that peer pressure will be exerted to promote use of evidence by any manager who refuses to do so. Little shared language or terminology exists, making it difficult for managers to hold discussions of evidence or evidence-based practices (Rousseau, 2005, 2006). For this reason, the adoption of evidence-based practices is likely to be organization-specific, where leaders take the initiative to build an evidence based culture (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006). Practices an evidence-based organizational culture employs include systematic accumulation and analysis of data gathered on the organization and its functioning, problem-based reading and discussion of research summaries by managers and staff, and the making of organizational decisions informed by both best available research and organizational information. Organizations successfully pursuing evidence-based management typically go through cycles of experimentation and redesign of their practices to create an evidence-based culture consistent with their values and mission.

At present, there are initiatives in several parts of the world, through the EBMgt Collaborative jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, the Academy of Management, the Advanced Institute of Management (UK), and John Wiley & Sons [1], in Canada through CHERF, the Canadian Health Education and Research Foundation, to begin building communities promoting EBMgt. Another example is the Center for Health Management Research affiliated with the Health Research & Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association [2].

As an example of the types of initiatives and organizations promoting EBMgt, the EBMgt Collaborative has as its Credo: Evidence-Based Management (EBMgt) enhances the overall quality of organizational decisions and practices through deliberative use of relevant and best available scientific evidence. EBMgt combines conscientious, judicious use of best evidence with individual expertise; ethics; valid, reliable business and organizational facts; and consideration of impact on stakeholders. Working with the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology, The EBMgt Collaborative commissions practitioner-focused summaries of best evidence for the SIOP publication Science You Can Use.

Critical theorists have raised objections to the movement (Learmonth & Harding, 2006; Learmonth, 2006). In particular, it has been criticised for treating "evidence" and "scientific method" as if they were neutral tools. From this perspective, "management" is not necessarily an automatic good thing - it often involves the exercise of power and the exploitation of others. Efforts have been made, however, to include a balanced treatment of such issues in reviewing and interpreting the research literature for practice (Rousseau, Manning & Denyer, 2008).

[edit] Research in management science

Some of the publications in this area are Evidence-Based Management (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006), Harvard Business Review (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006), and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006). Some of the people conducting research on the effects of evidence-based management are Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton, and Tracy Allison Altman. Pfeffer and Sutton have recently opened a web site dedicated to the movement.

[edit] Research in specific industries and professions

Evidence-based management is also being applied in specific industries and professions, including software development (see Evidence-Based Software Engineering for Practitioners (Dyba et al., 2005). Other areas are crime prevention (Sherman et al. (2002), public management, and manufacturing (Sloan & Boyles 2003).

Also see the Journal of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice and the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring.

[edit] References

  • Davies, H., Nutley, S., & Smith, P. (Eds.) (2002) What Works? Evidence-Based Policy and Practice in Public Services. Bristo, UK: Policy Press.
  • Dyba, T. et al. (2005). Evidence-Based Software Engineering for Practitioners. Software, IEEE. 22 (1).
  • Gray, J. A. M. (2001). Evidence-based Healthcare: How to make Health Policy and Management Decisions. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. 444 pages.
  • Kovner, A. R., Elton J., and J. Billings. (2000). Evidence-Based Management. Frontiers of Health Services Management. 16 (4): 3—26.
  • Kovner, A. R., & T. G. Rundall, Ph.D. (2006). Evidence-based Management Reconsidered. Frontiers of Health Services Management 22 (3): 3-21.
  • Learmonth, M. (2006). Is there such a thing as evidence-based management? A commentary on Rousseau's Presidential address. Academy of Management Review, 31, in press.
  • Learmonth, M. & N. Harding. (2006). Evidence-based Management: The very idea. Public Administration 84(2) 245- 266.
  • Pfeffer, J. and Sutton, R.I. (2006). Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Rousseau, D.M. 2005. Evidence-based management in health care. In Korunka, C.& Hoffmann. P. (eds.) Change and quality in human service work. Munich: Hampp Publishers.
  • Rousseau, D.M. 2006. Is there such a thing as evidence-based management? Academy of Management Review, 31: 256-269. (a)
  • Rousseau, D.M. 2006. Keeping an open mind about evidence-based management. Academy of Management Review, 31, in press. (b)
  • Rousseau, D.M. & McCarthy, S. Evidence-based Management: Educating managers from an evidence-based perspective. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2007, 6, 94-101.
  • Rousseau, D.M., Manning, J. & Denyer, D. Evidence in Management and Organizational Science: Assembling the field’s full weight of scientific knowledge through reflective reviews. Annals of the Academy of Management, in press.
  • Rundall T.G., Martelli P.F., Arroyo L., McCurdy R, Graetz I, Neuwirth EB, Curtis P, Schmittdiel J, Gibson M, & Hsu J.. 2007. “The informed decisions toolbox: tools for knowledge transfer and performance improvement.” Journal of Healthcare Management. 52 (5): 325-41; discussion 341-2. See also: The Informed Decisions Toolbox.
  • Sackett, D.L., Straus, S.E., Richardson, W.S., Rosenberg, W., & Haynes, R.B. 2000. Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach EBM. New York: Churchill Livingstone.
  • Sherman, L.W., Farrington, D., Welsh, B., MacKenzie, D.L. (Eds.) (2002). Evidence-Based Crime Prevention. Routledge.
  • Sloan, M. & Boyles, R. (2003). Profit Signals: How Evidence-Based Decisions Power Six Sigma Breakthroughs. Evidence-Based Decisions, Inc.
  • Thomas, G. & Pring, R. 2004. Evidence-based practice in Education. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Walshe, K. & Rundall, T.G. 2001. Evidence-based management: From theory to practice in health care. The Milbank Quarterly, 79: 429-457.
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