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Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  596 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The best organizations have the best talent. . . Financial incentives drive company performance. . . Firms must change or die. Popular axioms like these drive business decisions every day. Yet too much common management “wisdom” isn’t wise at all—but, instead, flawed knowledge based on “best practices” that are actually poor, incomplete, or outright obsolete. Worse, legion ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2006)
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Jered Skousen
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Chapters 1 & 2: The Case for Evidence-based Management
In too many businesses, we do things because of tradition or “everyone knows you should.” Not all of those assumptions are correct.
How to recognize the poor decision practices:
1) Casual Benchmarking. A few case studies are cited, often by those that have already drawn conclusions.
2) Doing what seems to have worked in the past. Why did it work? Sure it was the reason for success?
3) Following deeply held but unexamined ideologies. High rol
Farnoosh Brock
Apr 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: business-spirit
This is one difficult and dull book to read and here's the thing: Management DOES NOT NEED to be difficult or complicated and neither do books about it have to be as such.

While I respect the advice of a senior director who suggested it to me years ago, after months of making various casual and semi-serious attempts at digging into this, I give up! I perused through some of it, read a few chapters, and was mostly unable to fully appreciate the philosophies outlined in "Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-
Martin Smrek
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: management
Great guidelines for evidence-based management. Definitely should be on the top your leadership and management reading list.
John Petrocelli
Oct 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone serious about deleting the bullshit and leading and managing with evidence. This book is perhaps the very best and most useful book about applying evidence in a way that completely obliterates the unwanted and harmful effects of the mountains of bullshit in the marketplace of business ideas. A must-read provided by Pfeffer and Sutton with Hard Facts.
Apr 15, 2007 rated it liked it
It starts out great. It really brings home the idea that very few if any business practices are ever really tests. People make assumptions that not only they never question, but that eventually become part of established business literature.

Then it slowly devolves into your standard blah blah business text where the points are so vague, or contradictory, as to make the book not that worthwhile.

But the essentially point is good. If you want to know if something is working, test it.
Mark Polino
May 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
There are some great ideas in this book and they are totally obscured by the way the book is written. The book actually focuses on Dangerous Half Truths more than anything. The problem is that half truths are half true so the authors end up praising an item, then debunking it then suggesting its useful if not taken to the extreme. Isn't that effectively the definition of a half truth?

There was enough in here to keep me reading to the end, but I couldn't wait to get there.
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: work
i like the principles in this book and the fact that it's written for a "lay" audience, and would probably recommend it to master's level students. it is not, however, rigorously supported with evidence the way you might expect a book about EBM to be (and i think therein lies the problem with trying to convince non-academics to take an academic approach). ...more
AC Capehart
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to AC by: Ginsu Yoon
My favorite "business" book so far. A compelling case for evidence based management ...more
Harry Harman
struck a chord with lots of people

There is nothing wrong with learning from others’ experience—vicarious learning, as contrasted with direct experience

it is a lot cheaper and easier to learn from the mistakes, setbacks, and successes

When U.S. automobile companies decided to embrace total quality management and emulate Toyota, the world leader in automobile manufacturing, many copied its factory-floor practices. They installed pullcords that stopped the assembly line if defects were noticed, just
Rhonda Sue
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was somewhat intriguing although so many of the principles are familiar from other business and leadership books that I've read. I agree with the premise that evidence-based management is the way to go, because I agree that basing decisions on facts is correct. Facts matter. The authors take a number of so called truisms and turn them on their heads. They challenge the status quo thinking and that's a good thing. They do provide a number of high profile examples from companies such as ...more
Michael Massad
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is the management equivalent of Freakenomics. Pfeffer and Sutton take very well documented stats, apply them to existing companies for context, and show the reader that what we've been doing all along is wrong. This book is necessary and will not be read by those that need it. It reads like a text book at times, but then reads like Malcolm Gladwell focused only on management and made you think twice about your behavior. ...more
David Goldfarb
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of Pfeffer and Sutton's work. They are the antidote to leadership industry platitudes and look hard at how things do and don't get done in the real world. However, Hard Facts is a DENSE read. It has lots of wisdom, but there are better books written by both that are more accessible, such as Managing with Power, Leadership BS, and Sutton's No asshole rule. If you love there work, buy it, but don't start with this one. ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent for developing or furthing your critical thinking, starting with all the things you THINK you know.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a valuable book. Thank you for writing this!
Mads Gorm Larsen
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Does not live up to the title - there is not enough hard facts in it.
Ko Matsuo
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Jeff Pfeffer is really smart. Some of his concepts are really helpful. This book does a decent job dispelling management half-truths. I like how he frame when change happens (when there's dissatisfaction, clear direction, overconfidence that the plan will succeed, and an acceptance that change is a messy process). I also like how he describes how Leaders change organizations by talking and acting as if they are in control.

Unfortunately, he's a little long-winded. Also the book was published in
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was ok

If you had my contentious little soul, you too would like to pick up a book titled "Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense", and see if it does indeed live up to the promise of its title.

Written by Stanford Professors, Robert Sutton and Jeffery Pfeffer, this book first came to my attention through an article in The Economic Times back in December 2005. I'd even blogged it on Core77. So when I had the unexpected good luck to have Prof Sutton email me asking me if I'd like to take a l

Aug 30, 2012 rated it liked it
The book is about evidence-based management, which is the opposite of management where decisions are taken upon ideology or beliefs that are not based on facts.
it covers areas like:
- work-life integration
- selecting talent
- structuring rewards
- how much to emphasize strategy
- managing change
- leadership

My personal take-aways from this book:

1. It's very important to encourage people to deliver bad news because it helps to spot problems earlier and fix them faster which results in making less dama
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, school
I love data. I appreciated that this book really dove down into the data and evidence behind evidence based management practices should be followed and what should be thrown out entirely. Just because something has been done a certain way for eons does not mean it is the right or best way. How often have projects been started without stopping to consider if they are rooted in evidence or likely to succeed in the first place? I especially loved the chapter on leadership and how leaders get too mu ...more
John Stepper
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
It seems so obvious. So much of what we call management is unthinking and ineffective. And the authors are among the few well-credentialed people to point this out and back it up with solid evidence.

Performance management. Recruiting. Leadership. All of what we typically do simply isn't based on any evidence. I fact we plunge ahead *despite* the evidence.

The book's major accomplishments are that it will convince you to question the seemingly unquestionable practices and motivate you to do somet
Mar 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
The irony of this book can't be overstated. In the chapter about the difference between correlation and causation (which explains ad nauseum how people confuse the two), there is a section about social promotion in schools, that lays out a cost argument... based on correlation.

And that's one of the most analytical pieces of the book.

I am a few hours closer to death. I want that oxygen back.
Mark Dongen
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great book that takes an analytical look on fads in management. Too many theoreis are assumed or believed without facts to proof them. An easy readable book, that gave me a lot of interesting views one existing beliefs, which makes you think twice before accepting new ideas in management.

I think a recommended read, not for holidays, but for people interested in management theories and their (true) value,

Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
In Hard Facts..., Pfeffer and Sutton explore a lot of commonly held management beliefs. They present how the management practices may not be grounded in reality by comparing to solid data. Overall, I think the book was an enjoyable read.

My one critique is that I occasionally found it difficult to separate the belief they were describing from the evidence based approach they were suggesting. The distinctions were sometimes subtle.
Mike Clayton
Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: MBA students, Managers
Recommended to Mike by: Plant GM
One of series of anecdotal evidence that flys in the face of many other business/management writers. Easy to read and popular with many managers who hate the consultants that are always selling them new slogans, half-baked ideas, etc.

Reminded me of Huff's old book, "How to Lie with Statistics" or my yet unpublished book, "The Illusion of Control."
Dec 01, 2010 rated it liked it
I had to read this book for a business school class. If you are a business person, it is an interesting book to read because it gives insights into exactly where companies are going wrong with many of the management decisions they make. It is easy to read and worth the time if you are interested in evaluating the company you work for.
Krishna Kumar
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The authors describe evidence-based management in this book. They explore various situations in business environments, such as financial incentives and change management, in the light of evidence from research. They emphasize how business leaders and managers must avoid decisions that are based on unproven assumptions and instead look closely at real facts.
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book about as much as one can enjoy a business book. Well written and good solid arguments. Not a bunch of just anecdotal stories and evidence like so many of these type of books can be.
Ryan Giles
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm in the middle of this book, and I have to say that it is eye opening. It provides a great road map for evidence based management instead of chasing the latest fads. A must read for every manager and aspiring manager. ...more
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
A down to earth and clear book about Evidence Bases Management. Esp funny in chapters about the search for "corporate saviors", the leaders who know best and can solve problems by magic. Neglecting evidence about the importance of context and collaboration. ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am not a non fiction reader and not much patience for business books, but this one is a slightly academic myth busters for business. I enjoyed having much of my distaste for fads and easy answers being justified.
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Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University where he has taught since 1979. He is the author or co-author of thirteen books including The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First; Managing with Power; The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action; Hidden Value: How Great ...more

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