Post by: Sigurd Rinde
Just recently "evidence vs belief based management" has been raised again, and that's good, it should be in the forefront at all times if you ask me.
The whole thing seems utterly unbelievable, the indisputable fact [sic] that hugely important decisions, decisions that impacts us all as employees, customers and shareholders are often made based on beliefs and not on facts and evidence. Heck man, believe what you want, but when you run companies leave your beliefs at the door, it's my pension money you're squandering!
New York Times had a great article on evidence based management reminding me yet again of the importance of Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton's excellent book “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management".
Andrew McAfee piped in with a well-written piece here: How "intuition" has moved application from the instant to the slow, how the success of intuition practiced by people with years of hand on experience in situations awash in signals has been promoted to something the half-experts can use in signal-low slow situations. And how wrong that is.
I've seen it all through my business life, and probably been an offender myself.
But now as an "enterprise software vendor" I'm again hitting the same wall. And, from this new angle so to speak, it's plainly annoying.
"Best practices" is one of the building bricks of that wall. Add "proven" and "intuitive" and the wall requires nothing less than a case of dynamite to tear down.
[If you haven't read some of my other posts "best practices" means "copy the others so we can avoid being different and have a strategy" and "intuitive" means "that's how we always did it". Innovation good-bye stuff.]
Of course Sun Tzu would suggest walk around the wall, but alas the "buyers" are manning the walls and nowhere to be seen at the other side.
No customer facing company today is better than their systems; just think back on your own experience with different banks or telecom suppliers - all have nice friendly people manning the phone banks, but some tend to answer "sorry Sir, but our system does not allow that". I'd suggest that the facts are plentiful.
So the first question is: Are the IT buyers under some rules that obliges them to stick to the known? Of course they are, no leeway whatsoever to take any risk, their performance is measured by the ability to maintain status quo and not on risky innovation. IT departments has taken over from janitor departments; "keep it all clean and unobtrusive".
The second question is: Are those who sets strategy at all aware of the importance of IT? Again the answer is given; not at all. The prevailing belief is that IT is a tool for efficiency gains and the fact that IT is the framework for more effective use of resources and better products and services is not recognised.
So there we are, in dire need of moving IT responsibility back to where strategy is set, way behind the wall. That would leave the walls to crumble and open for some serious business development again.
And I for one would welcome it. And those who does it will win.