“Evidence-based management (EB Mgt.) is the systematic use of the best available evidence to improve management practice.” In the management and organization sciences, say the authors of an article in Acad. Mgt. Perspectives, Vol. 23, Nov. 2009 at 5, scant evidence exists, at least from their thorough and rigorous review of 60 years of academic publishing, that EB Mgt. will improve organizational performance.
A dispiriting finding, since one tenet of a progressive management philosophy is that managers can learn from others, with commensurate improvements in the performance of the functions they manage. The article finds little to support this view in the general business management arena, and it is even less likely to occur in the tiny domain of legal department supervision. Best practices, as the term is loosely bandied about, are far from based on evidence. Anecdotes are not evidence.
The future may find more practices of general counsel tested against benchmark metrics, such as whether dispersed lawyers in multiple offices, as compared to a majority in one location, results in lower or higher total legal spend as a percentage of revenue. Benchmark comparisons are a form of evidence, but they have yet to be matched systematically against practices (See my post of Nov. 22, 2009: evidence-based management.).