Best Practices…Who Says?

Best Practice

Life is full of best practices.  These are the things we should all be doing because they worked for someone else.  We get caught up in copying the P90X workout, or the Zappos marketing campaign, or the Salesforce.com sales presentation, or even parenting based upon the sage advice of best practice preachers. For those with children, do you remember the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting?; it’s a best practice book! But what are best practices?

The most common definition I could find on the Internet says best practices are commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.  But by whom?  Who says they work? Where did they work?  When?  What kind of business did they work in?

I have nothing against best practices in general.  However, when organizations take an approach that proudly states they will deploy best practices to accomplish their objectives, I must admit…it does make me a bit curious.

My experience has taught me that an organization’s culture trumps even the best of best practices.  I’ve spent 13 years of my career in the payroll and human resource outsourcing space.  Several times I’ve attempted to deploy what was considered a best practice at one firm into another only to see it fail due to a cultural difference.  Like hiring one of your competitors top sales people only to find they were unable to be as successful selling in your company, implementing best practices from one place to another doesn’t always work either.  Top sales people many times excel in environments where they are provided with autonomy and the latitude to get a deal done.  Placing that same sales person in a company that requires their managers sign-off on everything they do is a certain recipe for failure both for the sales person, the company, and of course the customer.

Before thinking about copying a best practice be honest with yourself and your team.  There’s a difference between being capable of doing something versus being able.  Having the ability to change is quite different from having the capability of changing.  Most of us are capable of a lot more than we’re doing today.  The reason we’re not doing more is because we’re unable to…unable to cross the chasm…unable to make the change…unable to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

We should always be interested in, and on the lookout for best practices.  Just be sure to consider how far you’re willing to go to implement those changes.  How much change can you endure in order to make the needed change?  The truth is, for best practices to work, it’s entirely up to you.  It’s not about the practice itself but about how you and your organization can execute that practice that makes it work…that makes it a best practice.

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