Over my time in the corporate world I have seen time and time again decisions based on 'half truths and total nonsense'. This is driven out of two key areas, namely:
- A lack of facts
- Ignoring the value of experience combined with facts
Likewise it is critical that the experts are not simply ignored because they are deem "past it". This is where generalist Management Consultants can be so dangerous. The corporate landscape is littered with detailed analysis gone wrong. Here consultants with no industry experience provide recommendations to a company based on the facts accumulated. However these facts often ignore the "voice of the expert". The value of the IP exits the building in the face of the smart guy paper. Again here is where true leadership is bought to the fore. In the book 'Hard Facts Half Truths and Total Nonsense' Pfeffer and Sutton state "Executives have fallen into the habit of relying on consultants to reduce complexity and to do much of their hard thinking...The essential tasks of leadership cannot, or at least should not, be subcontracted. Building an evidence-based perspective into how people think and operate is among the most crucial of these tasks."
To assist with this, it is important to remember that whether you are a small business operator or CEO of a larger corporate, it is critical to acknowledge that a fact based management approach is not only the domain for Senior Executives. Again, Pfeffer and Sutton put it best when they wrote, "The best organisations are places where everyone has permission, or better yet, the responsibility to gather and act on quantitative and qualitative data, and to help everyone else learn what they know."
So the next time you are part of a decision making process where interpretation of facts is critical, try to remember:
- Hope is not a strategy
- General statements are generally wrong
- Knowing a lot of facts is not the same as being smart.