Management Theory (if there is one) and management practice are not physics. We don’t have very solid data about what leads to what. We have plenty of correlations, a myriad of assumptions and, mostly, ‘half truths’ and conventional wisdom that has become elevated to the status of dogma.
Things may change with the use of Big Data, but this is only available to large companies that have adopted a very data-driven, evidence-based approach to management. Google is one of them. But even here the focus, for example in human resources, is on predicting employee performance or successful leadership. Predicting successful leaders in Google is very good for Google, but hardly a recipe to be copied by non-Google companies. It may tell Google what a successful leader looks like in their environment, but, (1) this is hardly replicable and (2) it does not equate to crafting the concept of Leadership itself.
There is both good news and bad news here. The good news is that many things could work well in the organization, and that you should be open to exploring and creating your own way. The bad news is the same as the good news with the added warning of the risk of trying to copy and replicate. Back to the good news: look at exciting examples of performance and leadership, imagine A, B and C in your organization, learn form what seems to work or not. Bad news again: don’t copy the entire thing, the entire model, the entire system pretending that you will be a mini-case of that Very Successful Company.
Management practices could do with more authenticity and more effort to ‘find your own way’, and less obsession with adopting entire ‘models of change’, ‘types of engagement’ or off-the-self designs.
Learning from examples is wonderful, provided one keeps an objective critical view of the whole picture and does not get too carried away. For each compilation of the top 20 high performing companies which did X, Y and Z, there are dozens of unwritten books about the hundreds of companies which also did X,Y and Z and failed.
There is a world of models, ideas, examples, and styles out there. Look and learn. Don’t benchmark. Benchmarking is a race against somebody who has already won.
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