Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Keith Townsend and Gabriele Suder
Chapter 8: Evidence-based management: some pros, cons and alternatives
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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