Handbook of Research on Managing Managers

Handbook of Research on Managing Managers

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Keith Townsend and Gabriele Suder

This book explores the changing role of managers in the workplace. In recent years, there has been considerable debate on the future of management, with both pessimistic and optimistic views being put forward. However, in the wake of delayering, downsizing, re-engineering and the pursuit of leanness, the more gloomy perspective has gained currency, especially in the popular managerial literature, and some have pronounced the end of management altogether. Some paint a more optimistic picture of managers and managers’ work with roles being transformed rather than replaced and the new organisational context providing more demanding work but greater autonomy and increased skill development. With contributions from experts in the field, this book is concerned with the way organisations manage their managers and how this continues to evolve with reference to global issues.

Chapter 8: Evidence-based management: some pros, cons and alternatives

Dennis Tourish

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


Evidence-based management (henceforth EBM) has been defined by its key proponents as the systematic use of the best available evidence to improve management practice (e.g. Rousseau, 2006; Latham, 2007; Rousseau et al., 2008; Briner et al., 2009). The last decade has witnessed an explosive growth of interest in the subject. Reay et al.’s (2009) review identified 144 papers dealing with EBM since 1948, but only eight of these had appeared before 1995. Beyond the journal literature, several books from key figures have also been produced, aimed at both management and academic audiences (e.g. Pfeffer and Sutton, 2006; Latham, 2009; Locke, 2009). An edited handbook published by the prestigious Oxford University Press testifies to its growing impact and its intention to have a transformative impact on management research, education and practice (Rousseau, 2012). This chapter attempts to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the concept, and of the critiques that it has attracted. What counts as ‘evidence’ in the field has long been a contested issue, with scholars differing substantially in their assessments of the ontological status of organisations, and the consequent implications for management theory and practice (e.g. Pfeffer; 1993; Van Maanen, 1995; Clegg et al., 2006).

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