Bob Sutton is an advocate for "Evidence-Based Management." Among other things, this is the simple notion that businesspeople "should subject their business practices and decisions to the same scientific rigor they would use for technical or medical issues."
As I have written before, there is an ongoing tension between simplifying work and rigorous thinking to yield valid insights. For innovation, distinguishing between facts and evidence is critical to adaptive execution. Conventional wisdom that is never re-examined prevents people from seeing opportunities, let alone acting on them. When companies fail, Monday-morning quarterbacks point to faulty strategy. But was it the plan that failed or simply poor execution?
What has Bob learned from his research with Jeffrey Pfeffer on making effective decisions? They have found that there are three common and harmful decision habits:
- Casual benchmarking: Copying others without knowing why it works
- Doing what (seems to have) worked in the past: Maybe you were successful in spite of some policy or action
- Following deeply held yet unexamined ideologies: For example, while many in the tech segment believe that the liberal and generous use of stock options helps drive stock values up, the evidence does not support that belief.
And until the bubble burst, the expectation that stock options would help tech salespeople cash out as millionaires was the major driver of compensation for many a software and hardware salesperson that I know and worked with.
Decisions based on hard facts and discipline will not guarantee success, however. There is this leadership and people thing! In the "Know-Feel-Do" sequence, too many people forget the "Feel" part of decision making. This is about respect for people, not lowering standards.
Sutton and Pfeffer debunk the "myth of the superhuman uber-executive" who wields magical decision powers that create amazing results with no input from "the mere mortals they tower over, inspire, and command":
. . . as leaders travel through their messy work lives, one of their most crucial chores is to display and promote curiosity - so that they and their followers will keep learning new skills . . .
Bob Sutton went a bit further when he recently posted his "Ten Things I Believe." I found these to be timely, valuable and simple insights to ponder as we kick off a new year:
1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all -- first do no harm!
2. Indifference is as important as passion.
3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can't have both at the same time.
4. Learning how to say smart things and give smart answers is important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.
5. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; self-interest is a learned social norm, not an inherent feature of human behavior.
6. Getting a little power can turn you into an insensitive self-centered jerk.
7. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.
8. The best test of a person's character is how he or she treats those with less power.
9. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.
10. Work is an over-rated activity.
Stay tuned for Bob's upcoming book, "The No Asshole Rule." Much more on numbers 6, 7 and 8 to come!
What do you think:
- We often have a bias for action. What examples can you think of where the right mix of thoughtful evaluation and rapid execution produced exceptional success?
- What tools do you use to quickly and effectively test your assumptions?
- Nardelli recently left Home Depot - with much celebration by many HD employees. What price did he pay for his ruthless decision making that apparently was not matched with respect for his people?