Evidence Based Support

I’ve been pretty quiet for a while …mostly listening and reading with interest to ongoing discussion about KM, web 2.0 and more. . Usually I have a lot to say. But recently I just can’t get rid of the feeling that I’m simply responding to cleaver rhetoric, smart arguments, and appealing ideas with no clear evidence to support them. I continually wonder if we really do know whether any of our ideas work. Where is the evidence? I don’t mean anecdotal data. I mean real evidence, intended to prove a theory is wrong or demonstrate that a program is working.

With this in mind, I came across an HBR series called “To make the best decisions, demand the best data”. Specifically, a paper called “Evidence bases Management” caught my attention. The paper makes an analogy between the evidence based medicine movement, (providing medical care based on clear and convincing evidence for treatments that work), with management, develop and deploying programs and strategies based on evidence for their efficacy. In medicine, the evidence based movement has had dramatic and positive effects on treatment success. But in management, the movement is nascent. Here’s my favorite quote from the article:

“Executives routinely dose their organizations with strategic snake oil, discredited nostrums, partial remedies, or untested management miracle cures. In many cases, the faces about what works are out there – so why don’t managers use them?” (HBR, Business Decision Making, January, 2006)

Maybe this quote is extreme. But there is truth to it and we need to change. We are responsible for significant costs in our organizations and have the ability to drive world class customer experience. So many programs in support either have mixed results or results that cannot be interpreted we rarely know what contribution we are making to our organizations bottom line. If we really want to lead our companies, to drive world class customer experiences, we need to manage based on evidence and gather data to tell us how well we are doing. We need to develop measurement programs that model our businesses and operations and tie them to business outcomes. Toyota revolutionized manufacturing by modeling errors in productions lines and developing strategies to address them. The support business is different, for sure. But is the need for clear evidence for or against what we purport to be good any less important?