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

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

Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, 2006

Great leaders are in control and ought to be.
The best organizations have the best people.
Financial incentives drive company performance.

Great pearls of business wisdom? Absolutely not, state Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton. They say too much common management “wisdom” isn’t wise at all, but instead is based on flawed knowledge of best practices that are poor, incomplete, or outright wrong — not to mention hazardous to an organization’s health.

In Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, Pfeffer and Sutton show how companies can bolster performance and trump the competition through evidence-based management, an approach to decision making and action that is driven by hard facts rather than half-truths or hype.

Unfortunately, managers often base their actions not on evidence or deep knowledge, but on blind faith — mindlessly copying what others have done, letting too much ride on gut instinct or intuition, and acting without questioning the myths, beliefs, ideologies, and popular fashions of management practices. Pfeffer and Sutton say enough is enough — and advocate the use of evidence-based management. In addition to outlining its financial and organizational impact on business, the authors help leaders to overcome barriers to evidence-based management in their own organizations, emphasizing how to manage in light of the most dangerous half-truths that bedevil organizations, which include:

  • Work is fundamentally different than the rest of life
  • The best organizations have the best people
  • Financial incentives drive company performance
  • Strategy is destiny
  • Change or die
  • Great leaders are in control of their companies

Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense is a candid book that challenges executives to commit to evidence-based management as a way of organizational life. And it shows executives how to turn this commonsense approach into common practice.


Selected by The Globe and Mail as the best book of 2006.

The French translation Faits et Foutaises dans le management won the “Prix du livre Ressources Humaines” award in Paris, Oct. 2008.

Selected Editorial Reviews
... Gathering the work of psychologists, sociologists, and management experts, the authors make a compelling case that some of business's beloved truths are far from self-evident. Too many business leaders, they argue, are making decisions based on vague hunches, management fads, and heroic-success stories instead of on empirical data. Too often, the consequences are grave ...
Justin Ewers, US News and World Report March 27, 2006
... The Bottom Line: A densely researched, hype-free reminder of what matters: just the facts, ma'am. ... The book is a rarity on the crowded management shelf. Unlike many such volumes, it offers no quick-fix, hype-heavy solutions from self-anointed gurus. At a time when intuition is on the ascent, thanks in part to Malcolm Gladwell and his best-selling Blink, Hard Facts is a useful reminder that the gut is often trumped by the facts...
Forget Going With Your Gut, BusinessWeek
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