Where’s The Evidence That Business Programs Work?

There are too many books and speakers that make claims along the lines of “this is how I did it (at one particular time, in one particular industry, in one particular set of circumstances) so do as I say and you too will become rich beyond your wildest dreams.”

I will not insult your intelligence by even starting to pick holes in this approach. Fascinating though such a story might be, it has limited value in terms of general application.

I believe it is my duty to check that what I preach works. For my businesses. For my client businesses. And for those who put their trust in what I say.

So, what do the numbers, the results, tell us? Here are three examples where businesses have worked through what is now known as the Check-in Strategy Journal – a triple espresso methodology of defining and acting on your business and personal goals.

Results: in the long run – in smaller businesses

I followed a group of entrepreneurs; turnover grew nearly ten-fold over the 10-year period; nearly half the entrepreneurs had exited very successfully.

Results: in the long run – in larger businesses

One FTSE 100 client with an 18% market share of a target market of 4.5 million businesses increased its market share to 21% within two years of applying the program.

Results – in the short run

The ‘ology’ has been applied in some 75 businesses in the last 12 months and profits have increased, on average, by some 107%.

So what?

The long-term performance of all these businesses has more than outperformed the market. However, the stats do not tell the whole story. We are not doing what the scientists call a fair test.

In reality, the businesses may have blossomed with or without the programs.

We need to be more than just a little bit careful when bandying around these statistics. Maybe the programs just attracted high-performers. We have no evidence to support how closely the businesses followed the program. All we can say is that those who choose to attend such programs achieved above-average performance.

The reality

I am afraid that it is nigh on impossible to correlate a training program or a book or an ology with the business results. Business, at best, is a social science, with too many variables to be able to make anything other than sweeping statements that seem to work, or work in most circumstances.

Where does this leave me?

What I do know is that people or businesses that follow my book’s framework will see significant improvements. But I stress that this is more of a correlation than a direct cause-and-effect relationship. There are just too many unknowns and variables.

My co-author and I put together a book to fill a gap: a journal for business people that focuses on both business and personal goals. A journal with an incredibly simple yet powerful toolkit to get the reader to focus on and plan and be accountable for their performance.

There is no shortage of claims for every new business book. I am rapidly of the opinion that our book is simply a springboard to action. One that appeals to a certain type of reader.

The management gurus argue over what creates success. Porter says it is 50% about strategy and a bit about systems, passion, and execution; Drucker and Bennis suggest an even spread between the four. Like Tom Peters, I think it is probably all (70%?) about the passion and the execution… and the strategy and systems will follow.

Strategy and systems are both relatively easy to teach, research, study and write about. But passion and execution, what can make us to be better at them?

Anything that helps businesses to be better at converting passion into execution (via strategy and systems) has to be a good thing.