Start a Best Practice Revolution

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 15

Just say no to implementing the best practice found outside your operation.

Just say no.

I’m struck by how unwilling management is to do the work of finding what works best in their department and culture and instead are so willing to do the “best practice” found over at company XYZ and published on “Gee Whiz it’s Great dot com”.

  • We abdicate our business judgment by blindly implementing a practice developed by others.
  • We tell our cubicle warriors that their ideas for making things better simply don’t matter even though they are bright and do the work.
  • We waste infinite amounts of money and time implementing something that we don’t know because we didn’t develop it.
  • We are unwilling to fight for what is right in our area by playing it safe. And when what we do fails, we cover our failure by baldly proclaiming it is a best practice so it’s someone else’s fault.

Just say no.

Instead, build your department’s value by taking a best practice and:

Challenge the assumptions of the best practice. Do the assumptions match up with your department and culture? If they don’t, you need to examine what is really applicable and what isn’t.

Challenge how the best practice could be measured if implemented. Half the best practices I read about claim savings that, when measured, can’t be measured the same way in your department. One cannot extrapolate same savings through implementing a best practice when the measurements are different.

Know your own practice and processes. If you really want to affect change, know how things work. If you know how your process works well, you will be better able to evaluate what is the same and different with the best practice. Instead of throwing out the “baby with the bath water,” know how a best practice could aid your current process to make it better.

Challenge your management on how the best practice would be better than what is working now. If what you hear back isn’t about integration of processes to make things better, listen very hard. If the answer back is corporate speak, be prepared to run. Of course, you may not be able to challenge your management on implementing a best practice because they don’t really have answers themselves — which is why they favor implementing the best practice.

Work the implementation to keep what is working well now in your current process and practice. What is announced and what can be implemented can change from “best practice” to “best practice for us.”

Best practices are simply guides to what works well some other place, not necessarily in your place. And even if a best practice for another place is implemented doesn’t mean in six months the best practice changes in reaction to the market or competition. Blind adherence to implementing best practices is simply bad management.

Just say no.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Looking back over this, I’m thinking that the “best practice” piece is just handled incorrectly by management. We look at the practice, labeled by a consulting company as “best”, and just assume it will work for us.

    I think the better approach would be to say — “Compare this practice to our process and see if we can make ours better.” And assume ours is right for us.

    That won’t always work, but it is at least the right attitude for the people doing the work.

  • Great, great post! We’re all unique and what works for one team won’t necessarily work for another. The tips are fabulous, thanks.

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