The Recommendation Myth:
So Many Words, So Little Improvement
People like to connect the dots. Well, here are some dots to connect: why is there
a complete failure of many (most? all?) recommendations in analytical reports to
actually improve anything. Consultant reports. Audit reports. Inspection reports.
Commission reports. Mountains of deliverables. Mountains of failure.
We call this phenomenon the RECOMMENDATION MYTH. The myth is that a
recommendation could lead to improvement. As long as this myth is alive in your
organization, you are facing a mortal danger to your survival. Overstatement? No,
because if you organize your work around this myth, you will never actually do the
work that is necessary to improve. It is too easy to maintain the view that a better
outcome is always just one recommendation away.
Our focus in these newsletters is getting actionable ideas to managers. Trust us
when we tell you to challenge the RECOMMENDATION MYTH at all times with
reckless abandon. We have read literally hundreds of external and internal
recommendations over the course of our work in private and public sector
organizations. The cumulative impact overwhelms and depresses: the vast
majority of recommendations essentially hard-wire failure into organizations.
Once you get the hang of it, it is easy to see the myth in action. Check out the
recommendations that have come into your organization in the last year. Put on
your Baldrige hat and ask the tough questions. Does the recommended approach
make sense? Is there a thorough plan for deployment? What learning opportunities
are created by this recommendation? Is the recommendation integrated with your
Our advice: Stick with the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Give up
the idea that improvement can come from outside your organization. Focus
instead on defining your system and capacity, and tap your own strengths. Every
organization we have ever worked with already had all the internal capability it
needed to achieve its mission; your job, our job, is to unlock that capability with
better thinking. The Baldrige framework will take you there if you are willing to
abandon the RECOMMENDATION MYTH and start doing the heavy lifting yourself.