Tests of Good Advice

Should you follow the advice at this blog–at any blog–or in any Harvard Business Review article or from any management coach? How can you tell which advice to act on and which to toss aside?

When you’re giving advice, are you giving people something they can use or are you seemingly just talking to hear yourself talk?

In Flawed Advice and the Management Trap, Chris Argyris describes how a manger–or anyone really–can test advice prior to acting.

I’ve used Argyris’ tests  to filter the advice I’ve received and to improve the advice I give others.  I’ve saved time by using Argyris’ tests.

Up at my desk I’ve posted a short cheat sheet of Argyris’ tests.  The posted questions keep the tests fresh in my mind.  I couldn’t read Argyris once and immediately implement his advice to perfection.  I had to practice (and I still am).  Practice applying these tests and you’ll only get better at driving change.

Argyris’ Tests of Good Advice

1. Is the advice valid?

  • If implemented correctly it leads to the consequences that it predicts will occur.
  • Its effectiveness persists so long as no unforeseen conditions interfere.
  • It can be implemented and tested in the world of everyday practice.

2. Is the advice actionable?

  • It specifies the detailed, concrete behaviors required to achieve the intended consdequences.
  • It must be crafted in the form of designs that contain causal statements.
  • People must have, or be able to be taught, the concepts and skills required to implement the causal statements.
  • The context in which it is to be implemented does not prevent its implementation.

3. Is the advice helpful?

  • It specifies intended outcomes or objectives to be produced.
  • It specifies the sequence of actions required to produce them.
  • It specifies the actions required to monitor and test for any errors or mismatches.
  • It specifies the actions required to correct such errors or mismatches.

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