Avoid the Best Practice Trap
Many times leaders look to Best Practices as a way to introduce change into their company. They feel this is a silver bullet that will solve problems.
In my experience when something is proposed as a best practice, then it implies that every other practice is inferior by default. However, if everyone is doing the same best practice, it leads to conformity. The uniqueness that makes up your company now disappears.
Excellent Question: How can our business outperform the competition if it is using the same best practices as everyone else in your industry? The answer is, it can’t. This applies to every area of your company where you may choose to apply them. HR, Accounting, Marketing, Social Media, or IT can all succumb to applying a perceived easy way to invoke order.
While some of the best practices might be applicable universally, these are a minority. What may be considered a best practice in one industry, company, country or corporate culture isn’t necessarily a good, much less best practice in another. If something works for a small mom and pop shop, it won’t necessarily work for General Motors and vice versa.
Usually, we are guilty of quick, false assumptions when adopting best practices. This is a sad factor of business life. Even when comparisons are confined to companies with the same culture, it is not easy. Seldom do leaders take the time to dig deep into the due diligence prior to committing.
What Questions Should You Be Asking?
First, I am not a Best Practice hater; there is value in looking at best practices. Leaders should be up-to-date and aware of what is working in their industry and culture. They should always seek that which works in other companies however be very aware that the same solution that works in one company doesn’t always work in another!
When entertaining best practices, think about them in terms of potential fit for your company. Will this be a “Best Fit”? Best practices must align with your company’s unique vision, needs, and culture and business environment. The more tailored a practice or process is for your company, the greater the likelihood of success.
Leaders need to ask deep, penetrating questions and seek concrete supporting evidence when it comes to best practices, including:
1. What criteria was used to determine that the practice is best?
2. Who or what group decided the practice was best?
3. What type of environment and under what conditions did the practice prove best?
4. Who, internally, is pushing the “best practice” and what are their motives and objectives?
5. What is the probability of success in implementing the “best practice,” given current resources and capabilities of your company?
Does Standardization Bring Benefits?
Too often, some external organizations have or want to have major influence in determining what the best practices are in their industries. They want to be the gatekeepers. They want to come up with “standardized” definitions, processes, practices, etc. for industry use.
Standardizations are usually part of regulated industries but today many companies are trying to establish standards so that the playing field will be kept artificially level. Even if these “standardizations” are not mandatory, it’s not something I see as beneficial. I believe it will create a sense of “permission” or “entitlement” to implement practices that are “endorsed” without doing any analysis. Too often, the researchers will opt for easy versus asking the hard questions of their own people.
In addition, if these “standardizations” are used, it gives the internal group a safe response for management, if any of them fail. You may hear; “But this is best practice and endorsed by our national organization”, and that can lead to some very counter-productive results including blame, finger pointing and stagnation
Mark Twain once said; “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Isn’t that what a ship designed to accomplish?
The greatest best practice is the one that you develop for your own company, using common sense, internal resources, and SME’s on a part-time basis. Living & communicating your vision, mission, and principles will make the process much easier.
If leaders are not willing to lead, then who else will?
If your company or team is struggling with change, check out our website today at TLG-RWME.us. We have frameworks that can help your team dig into the tough questions and create profitable paths for all.