Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total NonsenseHard Facts: Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton lays out an argument for how powerful evidence-based management can be. The gist of the book is to explore how so many "common sense" actions we take in business may not be the best choice, after all, when the underlying data is looked at objectively. The aim of the authors is to encourage us to research for ourselves what the best course of action for our particular group should be and to make small tests to see how well it fits in with our current culture.
For example, many companies look at a successful competitor and blindly copy what they are doing in one area, thinking they can therefore have the same results. But maybe itís an entirely different area which is leading to the success. Maybe the company is doing well in spite of that specific practice. Itís only by looking at a number of examples - both of successful and failing companies - that the real patterns can emerge. And even if there is a trait that does work at other companies, it still might not work in the target location. Every technique should be tested and evaluated in its destination before itís fully implemented.
In another example, some companies reward the top 10% of employees as the best. But perhaps the other employees are equally the best at what they do, but itís just measured in a different way. Or maybe they could be the best if they had a different boss or were in a different position.
Some jobs focus on providing monetary rewards, when employees might crave recognition or a more flexible work schedule. If a manager thinks, "I just need to throw more money at them to get the job done", because that seems common sense to him, he could miss out on a much productive work force.
A key message of Hard Facts is that a company should be viewed as an unfinished prototype. It should always be tweaked, polished, and examined - but not blindly. A change should not be forced in just because a neighbor is doing it. Experiments should be conducted to see if the change is really beneficial for the company in question. In the same way, every "sacred cow" should be up for exploration. With a culture of innovation and curiosity, a company can increase its ability to adapt and stay viable in the ever-changing marketplace we all now live in.
There is a wealth of enormously helpful advice in the book. But I also feel that in order to make its points that "no normal practice should be unexamined" that the book sometimes gets a bit extreme / silly in its examples. It seems to look down on the wearing of uniforms by medical professionals and police - but those uniforms serve a purpose in setting an expectation in civilians who encounter them. It puts down rules against dating colleagues, when there is little way that a boss-employee relationship cannot be completely separated from the power relationship. It instructs people to be true to their nature - but what if a boss is naturally short tempered? Surely that boss should work on altering his nature to be more supportive of his staff.
In a section talking about how a culture of "helping others" is good for a company, they use an example of someone who is annoyed to help but does it anyway. Iím not sure if thatís a great example of the culture a company wants to foster. They praise a company who refused to tell potential employees what their salary would be. Iím sorry, but if I am quitting my job to work for someone else, I need to know theyíre going to pay me more than $800 a year!
I think their purpose was to get readers to stretch their minds about areas they might have hard-set beliefs in. However, by making some of those examples so extreme, they undermined their effectiveness in getting their message across. I want to be nodding my head in agreement as I read a book of ideas, not shaking my head in disagreement.
Still, the underlying message is sound. Donít reject a strategy as being flawed when it might be the implementation that is iffy. Be willing to put aside existing beliefs and give other ones a try. Release your commitment to the "current way" and be willing to see if other ways might be better. Sure, sometimes they wonít be. But at least by trying, testing, and experimenting, you donít miss the chance to make things even more efficient and supportive.
Well recommended, with a grain of salt in their examples. Evaluate them and test them with your own mind.
I purchased this book with my own funds in order to use it as a textbook in a Leadership class.
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