Are Best Practices Best for You… or a Potential Disaster?
Written by Jeff Hughes, on April 19, 2021
Nearly all of us have implemented industry best practices into our operating models. Most executives take best practices as a given. We believe that employing these practices is the best route to improved performance. But blindly adopting best practices is a great way to achieve below-average results.
Even worse, adopting a best practice that is wrong for your company can destroy value, even crater the business.
A quick fix is not always the best fix. Most of your competitors have studied the same sources you have for best practices and like you, are employing them. However, you and your competitors are only playing catch-up while other companies are busy understanding their customers and testing new ideas that will likely be recognized as a “best practice” in a few years into the future. By that time, these more enlightened companies will have kept up with the important touchpoints and used the feedback to enhance their business’ competitiveness. You will be left behind…
Companies that rely solely on following best practices will only be able to reach the level of status quo and may ultimately see their performance decline in comparison to the more progressive companies. Managers may unwittingly assume that everything a successful company does is a best practice. But many of these practices aren’t even critical to the success of the organization.
One reason why a business’s inefficiency may be challenging to spot is that when the best practice came into existence, it was beneficial. But when change occurs externally or internally and the business begins to decline, it becomes difficult to accept that doing it differently would improve the business results. Humans have the natural tendency to obey authority, which serves us well in most cases, except when the so-called “authority” has wrong intentions. We tend to follow best practices if a respected authority suggests it. In the short run, the practice yields positive results so firms adopt them and never connect the problems of today with practices adopted years ago.
Consider the best practice of “management by objectives” (MBOs). Peter Drucker first used the term in his 1954 book “The Practice of Management”. As it turns out, the basic idea wasn’t even original to Drucker… he borrowed it from Mary Parker Follett’s 1926 essay, “The Giving of Orders” to create complete his system. Not exactly new an original nearly a century later!
Instead of going along with any best practice, ask yourself: “What are the most serious and common problems preventing you from reaching your goal?” And there may more than one problem, so ranking them makes sense. Once you have identified your biggest problem, it’s time to identify its root cause. Try asking yourself to answer five times the “why” this problem exists. Hopefully, out of this analysis will emerge the root cause of your problem and you will be much better positioned to creatively solve it in your organization.
Begin by developing testable hypotheses: If (the problem) then the result (the solution). We don’t know everything which is why you might want to constantly be doing surveys of your users. You need to find out both quantitatively and qualitatively what works and what does not. You need to adapt your practices to the stark realities of what change can do to a company’s competitive position.
The point here is that you need to discover your own internal best practices. What works for you might not work for a competitor and in the process, you gain a competitive advantage. Questioning and uncovering the best internal best practices may significantly boost your competitive advantage and allow you to wrap your offerings around the customer’s needs, always evaluating for changes in consumer needs and competitive activity. This is where One Page Business Plans can be helpful in manage implementation of you’re the internal best practices that work for you company. One Page Plans will aid you in cascading those practices all the way from the top to the very bottom or your organization!