Daily Archives: February 1, 2009

Are Your Best Practices Really Best Practices?

Best practices are important because, as per Wikipedia, they can deliver desired outcomes with fewer problems and without unforeseen complications and do so more productively and at lower costs. Many organizations claim to employ them, and chances are that your organization falls into this group. But do you really employ best practices?

Calling a procedure a best practice does not make it a best practice. And even if it was a best practice five years ago, that doesn’t mean that it’s a best practice today … even if it’s the best practice you know of. As Carlos Alvarenga points out in When Is a Best Practice Not a Best Practice?, “best practices” is often a misleading term used by some consultants and software vendors, a term misappropriated to refer to what are in fact just “rules” of daily operation.

As Carlos notes, by the time a “best practice” gets incorporated into a piece of software or a PowerPoint presentation at a big consultancy, it is usually no longer “best” but simply “good”. Most companies that devise truly innovative practices try very hard to keep them trade secrets for as long as possible. Chances are, by the time they are proclaiming the greatness of their best practices to the rest of the world, they’ve already moved on to a new suite of best practices, or improved the effectiveness well beyond the pasturized pablum they are milking for all the attention they can get from the media.

Furthermore, a best practice is not a best practice if your organization cannot, or will not, adopt it and implement it to its full extent. (For example, monitoring a supply chain visibility daily for unexpected demand fluctuations and actively taking action on that information, which would be a demand-driven best practice, are two completely different things.) A best practice is the best possible solution that your organization will implement, follow methodically, and try to improve on a regular basis.

Constant evaluation, and improvement, is key. New technologies, methodologies, and organizational structures crop up all the time … and you never know when one or more of these new innovations might provide the foundation for a two times productivity improvement, and a four times ROI, in one of your best practices. If you haven’t reviewed a best-practice methodology in a year or two, it’s time to review it now … with an open mind. You never know what opportunities you might find.