Practical tips for using #ebhr in the workplace.


| 141 Posts

Chartered Fellow

28 Jun, 2017 08:53

When I first started exploring evidence-based management and HR, I wondered what simple steps I could take to slowly introduce myself to the concept.

I had concerns and reservations mainly because I didn't feel I knew enough about #ebhr to apply it correctly. But the truth is, #ebhr is simply a way of making better decisions. Once I grasped that concept, I realised that two factors were important in how I could use this as a practice. Firstly, I challenged myself into not accelerating the problem definition stage. By this I mean, it's not uncommon for all functions in business to make an assumption that they know what the problem is as if its basic and intuitive which it often, but not always, is. There are too many disciplinary cases and so there has to be a cultural issue or my learning solutions aren't sustainable so they must be the wrong solutions, right? Actually, as with anything, the more time you spend really focusing in on what the problem really is that you are trying to address, the more chance you have of finding the right solution. So I challenged my assumptions at an early stage and really paid this part of the process its dues.

Secondly, I realised that once I knew what the problem really was, I could ask myself what the best available evidence tells me might or might not work to address the issue. As others in the world of #ebm have said 'evidence is not answers' but it can certainly help challenge thinking and steer clear of certain areas. Sometimes there will be scientific evidence to support a solution, other times there won't be, but lots of experiential and organisational evidence might be available. That's fine, we can only use the best available evidence.

I've implemented #ebhr project gate-reviews which are stages in major projects when I stop and reflect by asking myself 'have I defined the problem well enough' and 'have I identified the best available evidence to help solve this issue'. I've also recognised that as projects are not static, so many factors mean project plans are continuously changing, so too could be the definition of the problem which will have a knock on effect into what evidence is available that I've tried to obtain, so #ebhr gate reviews periodically can only help.

I'm interested to know, how could you implement #ebhr into your working practices? It would be great to see examples of how #ebhr is or could be implemented in the workplace.

  • I agree. I think that the first step in evidence-based practice can be the hardest: getting your orientation right. We need to properly exercise critical thinking and form robust questions that can be clearly tested against the best available evidence. This means being both anti-fad and non-reactionary; in essence, being willing to face uncomfortable truths. But it's so easy to take for granted that we know what the problem is.

    Project gate-reviews sound interesting, Mark. Can you share an example of how you sued this to good effect?

  • Mark

    | 141 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    3 Jul, 2017 12:10

    In reply to Jonny Gifford:

    Hi Jonny,
    Happy to work through a brief example;-

    In a previous org we started a project to investigate issues around turnover, safety performance, profitability, and production issues in an engineering environment which was essentially too broad a collection of issues to consider as one - although the overall performance was considered a result of these smaller issues.
    The first stage was obtaining best available evidence. There was lots of organisational data available - KPI's, accounts, lost time accident/near miss rates, retention rates and so forth.
    We determined that there was indeed a problem. This was our basic start. We looked at what scientific evidence was available but in this instance, organisational evidence was more thorough and accurate.
    We then built gate reviews in to our project plan as we addressed each issue to determine whether the, I guess, holistic performance was improving. So in essence, by reducing number of accidents and improving retention, did this suitably improve productivity and financial performance. If not, remove from the problem and investigate what we are left with. Almost like a relay.
    We implemented #ebm gate reviews so that once we addressed each sub-issue, we revisited the initial problem we were trying to solve, and reassessed whether we could better refine the issue and revisit the best available evidence.

    Not sure I explained that very well but hopefully you catch my drift.

  • Elizabeth

    | 2603 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    3 Jul, 2017 12:35

    Hi Mark

    You are making a really important point. There are so many decision-making models and my observation is that people often rush through the essential first stage of defining the problem, assuming that they know what is going on and want to push on to the "what to do about it" stage.

    Have you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? It was one of those books that catches the popular imagination and was a best-seller back in the 1970s. There is a passage which has stuck with me all these years where Robert M Pirsig talks about troubleshooting mechanical problems. He says that instead of saying, "I've flooded the engine and the bike won't start", the amateur mechanic is much better off saying "The bike won't start. Hypothesis no. 1 is that I've flooded the engine". Then you test that hypothesis. And so on.
  • Mark

    | 141 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    5 Jul, 2017 08:38

    In reply to Elizabeth:

    Hi Elizabeth. I've not read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but I love that passage. *Toddles off and adds to reading list*....
  • In reply to Mark:

    I have read it, but it literally was 30-35 years ago.....
    Trundles off to book shelf to try and find book
  • Elizabeth

    | 2603 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    13 Jul, 2017 12:39

    In reply to Paul:

    It's years since I read it too. I've just downloaded it to my Kindle. I really hope it still stands up ... ...
  • Thanks for sharing Mark. This has been really helpful, I am currently involved with an business going through a number of changes and issues and its easy to get lost in the many sub issues. To often I am also finding that what I thought was the root cause is not. I will have a look into project gate-reviews to help with keeping on track and focused.
  • Liam

    | 5 Posts


    2 Aug, 2017 20:44

    I learned a valuable lesson on this while doing my masters dissertation. I must have written my dissertation question 4 or 5 times before formulating it in a way that made sense. I couldn't figure out each time why I couldn't get started until I realised my question was over-complicated. It's stood me in good ever since and I advise people frequently to focus on the question they want to answer before starting.
    Very helpful Mark thanks.
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