My friend Rob Briner has a piece in the latest issue of People Management on evidence-based management. Rob has been writing on this subject for some time and his assertion is that much of what passes for people management in British organisations has no rational basis whatsoever. It is as likely to be based on the latest fad, what might look good or what is easy to get away with as it is on sound evidence.
As Rob says:
Management fads are attractive, as they promise to deliver a lot and do it fast. The alternative approach of a careful, sober, systematic consideration of the problem, potential solutions and the evidence can seem, in contrast, both boring and too slow. From the snake-oil salesman or quack to sub-prime loans and fad diets, we show a strong preference for the quick fix. On the other hand, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Empowerment, TQM, excellence, downsizing, emotional intelligence, business process re-engineering and, my current personal favourite, talent management, are just some of the fads that have been rapidly adopted and, as many observers have argued, probably done more harm than good.
Of course, not all managers are taken in by fads. But, even in my limited experience, a surprising number are – including some very senior people.
Yep. Senior executives are often the most easily duped. One reason for this might be that many of them feel insecure in their positions, so whenever they are challenged about the latest management theory, especially by some smart-arsed consultant, they like to look as if they know about it.
Conversations often go something like this:
“I think we should run your next visioning workshop using the LetsAllGazeAtOurNavels(TM) methodology, outlined in Bamboozle and Scarper’s latest book, “Unleashing the Corporate Schwarzenegger”.
“Good idea. I found that book really inspiring. I just couldn’t put it down.” (Thinks: “Must buy and read a copy before the workshop.”)
When it comes to slavishly following fashion, teenage girls can’t hold a candle to senior corporate executives. Whether or not any of it works is a secondary consideration.
Anyway, Rob Briner is giving a lecture on this subject at Thames Valley University this Wednesday. He’s an entertaining speaker and not afraid to slaughter a few sacred cows. He’ll probably upset some people in the audience but what the hell.