Not too long ago I was speaking with one of my colleagues and he was bemoaning a program that brought no value-add to the organization (although it cost very little in terms of staff time and operational expenses). The primary argument to keeping it was the low-cost and that it was a long standing program which a handful of past-presidents just loved. The crux of the issue is that it often became a focus of micro-management.” What was the staff doing wrong that the organization had so few applicants to this program?” ” We are not communicating enough!” “Maybe we need to add a monetary incentive to apply” and on and on. It just had become a real sore spot with staff because they realized (anecdotally) that the program only benefited a very small amount of people and even so the reward was so minimal those few annual applicants were dropping off. The view of the presidents was that the program caused “no harm” so letting it continue was easy. Or was it?
The problem in this scenario is that my esteemed colleague and his past leadership were all using anecdotal evidence to make their point. Anecdotal evidence is typically personal perception oriented and often affected by personal biases. This is akin to the President wanting to offer a workshop on XYZ simply because he/she has an interest in it ergo ALL MEMBERS MUST BE INTERESTED. It is faulty reasoning at best. Anecdotal evidence is almost always qualitative- ” I feel… I believe… Members told me they loved it… Everyone seemed to enjoy it”. CEBMa (2014), the center for evidence-based management , explains it this way:
Most management decisions are not based on the best available evidence. Instead, practitioners often prefer to make decisions rooted solely in their personal experience. However, personal judgment alone is not a very reliable source of evidence because it is highly susceptible to systematic errors –cognitive and information-processing limits make us prone to biases that have negative effects on the quality of the decisions we make. Even practitioners and industry experts with many years of experience are poor at making forecasts or calculating risks when relying solely on their personal judgment, whether it concerns the credit rating of bonds the growth of the economy political developments or medical diagnoses. Practitioners frequently also take the work practices of other organizations as evidence.
Following is a chart provided by CEBMa that gives the basis for formulating evidence based decision making:
Evidence-based practice is about making decisions throughthe conscientious, explicit and judicious useof the best available evidence from multiple sources by
1. Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
2. Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence
3. Appraising: critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
4. Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence
5. Applying: incorporating the evidence into the decision-making process
6. Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken…
to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. (CEBMa, 2014).
So how would I use Evidenced-based management principles to sunset this particular program?…. Watch for Part 2 of this post!
To access the entire CEBMa article on evidence-based principles just follow this link http://www.cebma.org/wp-content/uploads/Evidence-Based-Practice-The-Basic-Principles.pdf