What is evidence-based consulting and why does it matter?

Evidence-based management, and the related area of evidence-informed training, are simply about applying proven principles to consultancy and training interventions. By following the simple principle of applying what works, the outcomes resulting from consultancy and training are faster, less expensive and more effective.

We find that, all too often, mangers ignore sound evidence and rely on personal experience or the latest fads promoted by management gurus. Unfortunately for organisations and society in general, managerial decisions affect all of our lives.

Henry Mintzberg, Professor of Management at McGill University in Canada described it well:

No job is more vital to our society than that of a manager. It is the manager who determines whether our social institutions serve us well or whether they squander our talents and resources.’ 

Mintzberg, H. The manager’s job: folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 1990, Vol 53 (4)
in-house professional training development

Aims of evidence-based consulting

The main aim of evidence-based consulting is to get good-quality decisions by applying critical thinking to the best available evidence. Of course, all managers use evidence to make decisions, but too often use low quality evidence. There are too many bad decisions based on beliefs, fads and fashionable but unproven ideas. The bottom line is bad decisions, poor outcomes, and limited understanding of why things go wrong.

Evidence-based consulting seeks to improve decision making. It helps managers critically evaluate how much they can trust the evidence they have at hand. It then helps to identify, gather and assess additional, relevant evidence.

Definition

Evidence-based practice is about making decisions through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use
of 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 favourable outcome.

This definition is partly adapted from the Sicily statement of evidence-based practice: Dawes, M., Summerskill, W., Glasziou, P., Cartabellotta, A., Martin, J., Hopayian, K., Porzsolt, F., Burls, A., Osborne, J. (2005). Sicily statement on evidence-based practice. BMC Medical Education, Vol. 5 (1)

Evidence for the effectiveness of evidence-based consulting

There is a range of scientific research suggesting that an evidence-based approach to decision-making is likely to increase their effectiveness. The human mind is prone to biases that impair the quality of the decisions we make, so anything we can do to reduce the damaging impact of this trait is very useful.

This is a brief summary of some of the reasons behind our chosen approach. If you would like to find out more , please contact us, explore the resources of the Center for Evidence Based Management or, for a practical illustration, why not take a free trial of our Introduction to Business Strategy distance learning course that was designed using evidence-informed principles.