What is Evidence-Based Management?

Evidence-based management is the practice of making managerial decisions with the use of critical appraisal and the best available evidence, with the aim of making these decisions more accountable and effective. This type of practice has its origin in the field of medicine, but with time it spread to other disciplines as education, nursing, criminology, public policy and social work, practices in which reliability and accountability was a priority.

Why do we need Evidence-based Management?

What about management? Are the choices that are taken everyday in the world of management less important? Being organizational outcomes as profit, performance and reputation at stake, along with the engagement, satisfaction and health of the workforce, these decisions can make a huge difference in the life of an organization.

Most of us don’t invest much time in searching for information from highly reliable sources. Because of this, most of us tend to base our decisions on past experience, on what is promoted as “best practice”, or on success stories of famous CEOs, looking for a quick fix to our problems. When we base our decisions solely on our personal experience and judgement however, we risk that our point of view on the problem or project can be biased by many factors. On the other hand, when importing other organizations’ “best practices” in our own company, we risk to implement something new without considering the difference between the two settings. In other words, we do not weigh how much that approach could be considered effective independently from the context.

As Barends, Rousseau and Briner (2014) illustrate, “the bottom line of this process is often bad decisions, poor outcomes for the organization, along with a limited understanding of why things went wrong. As a result, billions of dollars are spent on management practices that are proven to be ineffective or even harmful to organizations, their members and their clients”.

What does an evidence-based manager do?

An evidence-based manager instead, knows how to find the ‘best available’ evidence and how to evaluate the validity, generalizability and applicability of this information.

According to the Center for Evidence-Based Management (2014), the six steps to follow for an evidence-based practice are:

  1. Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
  2. Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence
  3. Appraising: critically judging the reliability and relevance of the evidence
  4. Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence
  5. Applying: incorporating the evidence into the decision-making process
  6. Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken


What is critical appraisal?

If evidence-based management is about using the best available evidence for managerial decisions, critical appraisal has a central role in identifying such evidence.

According to the Center for Evidence-Based Management (2014), this can be done by asking some basic questions.

  1. Where and how is the evidence gathered?
  2. Is it the best available evidence?
  3. Is there enough evidence to reach a conclusion?
  4. Are there reasons why the evidence could be biased in a particular direction?


What sources of evidence should be considered?

Following the principles of evidence-based practice, evidence from four sources should be taken into account:

  • Scientific evidence: Findings from published scientific research
  • Organizational evidence: Data, facts and figures gathered from the organization
  • Experiential evidence: The professional experience and judgment of practitioners
  • Stakeholder evidence: The values and concerns of people who may be affected by the decision

sources of evidence

© Center for Evidence-Based Management, 2014

To base your decisions on evidence will make your management practice more productive and accountable, with great benefits for your organizations and yourself.

What are your thoughts on Evidence-Based Management? Let us know in the comment section.

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Barends,E., Rousseau, D.M., & Briener, R.B. (2014) Evidence-Based Management: The Basic Principles. Amsterdam: Center for Evidence-Based Management.

You can find the original paper here!

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