I've never met a manager who doesn't make decisions based on evidence. Whether it's about the best way to market a new product, manage a difficult situation with a member of staff, ensure the success of a merger, or maintain staff motivation during downsizing, managers use information and evidence to help inform their decisions. In this respect, managers are no different to practitioners in any field. From homeopaths to Home Secretaries to hairdressers, the interventions chosen by practitioners are usually explained in relation to some kind of evidence whether it be taken from research studies, statistics, case studies, or the lessons learned from years of experience. It would seem strange if any practitioner or professional could not or refused to justify their actions in this way and, when asked why they had taken a particular decision, responded 'just because'.
The simple idea that evidence is, can and should be used to help practitioners make better decisions is neither controversial nor complicated. However, like a lot of simple ideas, when you dig a little deeper it turns out to be rather less straightforward. What sorts of evidence do managers actually use? How reliable or accurate is it? What else, apart from evidence, guides the decisions managers have to take? Even where managers want to use evidence, does it exist and can they easily get hold of it?
How easy is it to get hold of and use evidence?
Using evidence and information to inform decisions is part of our everyday life. We use maps or navigation systems to help us know where we are and how to get where we want to be. We turn to websites reporting reviews and tests of consumer products to help us decide which to buy. We might pull together a huge range of information and data before deciding whether to move into a new neighbourhood. But we don't always operate in this way. Sometimes, there just isn't enough time to get hold of the information. Our sat nav might send us the wrong way. We choose to leave things to chance. The information we want just doesn't seem to exist. We can't be bothered to do the research. It's more fun just to decide on a whim.
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