The Quest for Evidence Based Management: A Critical Realist Perspective

Research Cluster

Speaker:Dennis Tourish, University of Kent
Date: Monday 4 April 2011
Time: 14:00 - 15:30
Location: Leacture Theatre B, Streatham Court

Further details

Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in what has been described as 'Evidence Based Management'. Its proponents assert that management practice should be based on a better appreciation of 'what works', as determined by the research evidence. This has attracted a social constructionist critique, which suggests that the evidence base on most management issues is uncertain, and constrained by the interests of powerful organisational actors. EBM is depicted as an effort to marginalise more critical perspectives within the field. I suggest a different approach. Drawing on a critical realist epistemology, it suggests that while research evidence is rarely conclusive it can aspire towards the progressive reduction of uncertainty. The key tenets of critical realism as applied to EBM are considered. It is argued that it may be useful to modify the concept of Evidence Based Management, and instead embrace the notion of 'Evidence Based Organising'.
Dennis Tourish is Professor of Leadership at the University of Kent and a Fellow of the Leadership Trust Foundation. He has published extensively on leadership and organizational communication issues, in journals such as Journal of Management Studies, Human Relations, British Journal of Management and Long Range Planning. His current research interests centre on problems with leadership practice, leadership in cults, the discourse that has emerged around calls for evidence based management, and the pernicious effects of journal ranking systems on scholarship (see