One of the management buzz words really getting a lot of attentions is that of “Best Practice.” Wherever you look, you will see people writing about or speaking to the virtues of doing or being “Best Practice.”
It doesn’t matter the type or size of your business is, it seems that everyone in the business world says you “must adopt best practice,” and that if you don’t, you will surely be left behind in your chosen marketplace. Yet, for many of us, does “best practice” feel wrong?
Perhaps we are not sure why, but something deep inside us causes us to feel uncomfortable with the idea. For many, it’s written off as just a resistance to yet another potential management fad. For those, I suggest you trust your instincts. If you feel that something is wrong, it potentially is very wrong.
Before explaining why I make the above statement, I’d like to analyze a few businesses and ask a few questions. The examples given are simple, and designed to help connect with experiences and feelings of many professionals today.
First, looking at banking experiences over the years. It’s common to feel frustrated when transactions and interactions don’t go through. For many people, travel is one of those industries that seems to turn up more than a few “surprising” experiences. Many times, it happens that a traveler does not get what they expected, usually after having paid for what they are requesting. Another example is that of mobile phone companies. They seem to provide customer experiences that more often than not, are not geared toward delivering the service expected as a customer.
In almost every case if you think about it hard enough, someone will have told you that they operate “Best Practice” or “Industry Best Practice,” which seems all well- except that such practices very rarely lead to great customer service. Try looking at best practice from another angle. Best practice means that we are only as bad as the bank next door, only as bad as the alternate airline, the next counter, or that we are only as bad as the other phone companies. In other words, best practice does not mean we are good or better- it actually means we are no worse than others in our market. When you are buying a good or service, do you choose on the basis of things being no worse than others?
Now we can start to understand why it is that our feeling of unease existed. It was because we knew deep down that we were leaving something on the table. We knew we were potentially cheating our customers and staff, by pretending everything was alright and kidding ourselves that we are good.
So how then can we avoid the best practice trap? In the first instance, we can make sure that we never settle for second best. As individuals, we deserve better than that. As customers, we have the right to “better than that.” Should anyone think otherwise then may I suggest that you take a moment to consider how many competitors you have. Ask yourself if you were the customer, and you had the choice- would you accept second best when you could get great from someone else?
Having decided that only the best is good enough, then we must set out to redefine what the best means. The advice is to look outside your industry and think about who executes the best on each of the component parts of your business. For example, if you were looking at brand and image, which companies do you see as having the best image? If you are looking at customer service, then who in the world provides the best service? In terms of quality, what industry or company do you know that is admired for the quality of their product or service?
As you run through your answers to these questions, add ones of your own that are specific to the functions or processes that you operate in your business. Then, when you have your list, which should include businesses from different geographic locations and multiple industries- you now have the ideas that you need in order to make your business a stand out success.
If you look with a positive perspective, e.g. how you can adapt what they do to your business, rather than why it won’t work for you, then you will have created a list of extremely powerful ideas that you can use to turn potential success into reality.
Your perspective is key here; you know that if you only look for bad things, you can surely be confident that you will find them. However, if you look for the good you can very often be pleasantly surprised in finding it. As any successful person will tell you, being wrong and sure is nowhere near as fulfilling as being unsure and getting it right sometimes.
As you reflect along your business journey, I urge you to give up on “best practice” and start by applying the concept I suggest above, and making sure you only apply “Next Practice.” Only applying the ideas and innovations that help to make sure that your business stands out from the crowd, in return you run the risk of being seen as a leader in your market and of winning more business as a result of customers voting for you with their wallets! Surely this is a risk worth taking.
About the Author:
Mark McGregor is Head of Strategy at Signavio. A former Research Director at leading IT industry analysis firm Gartner, McGregor has an extensive background in enterprise architecture, business process management and change management, having held executive positions with a number of technology companies. Widely respected for his knowledge and views on business change, he is the creator of “Next Practice” and has variously been described as a “BPM Guru”, a “Thought Leader” and a “Master of Mindset”.