Innovate, Improve and Discover To Be a True Leader

Stop searching for “best practices”

“Best practice” has become a commonly used term in past years to describe the most efficient and effective way to accomplish a task or procedure. Organizations are always on the lookout for “best practices” they can replicate and implement, but just the phrase “best practices” alone sets up unrealistic expectations throughout the organization, from the top down. Some proper terms an organization that wants to improve, innovate, and survive could use include “better” or “new” or “different” practices, meaning that the organization’s leadership is continually striving to develop. The collective energy then shifts from complacent to dynamic.

Best practices—or employing a practice another organization has used to solve a problem—are often sought in an effort to save time. The “best practice” method is considered efficient to help accomplish work and get desired results. One company might research how other companies pay their salespeople, implement their rewards system, or recruit star employees, and try to introduce the same practices into their own organization. However, chasing “best practices” and benchmarking what other organizations do often leads to stagnant thinking and copying.

A better practice, a better way to do something for one team is a misnomer for others. A best practice for one team or company will wreak havoc on another team. It doesn’t fit or work. Too many people think, “Oh good, we’ve found a best practice. It is the new industry standard.” Managers of an organization will often accept the new practice for months, years, or even decades. They adopt an industry “best practice” and use it over and over without asking essential questions: “Does it help us achieve our aim?” “Does it solve our issues and work in our culture?” and “Does it serve our customers?” Accepting a best practice removes the questioning, thinking, and experimenting that you need to align with the needs of your own organization and customers. Developing and implementing your own process focuses your team on engaging in and developing their own culture focused on continual learning, improvement, and innovation.

In the English language, the adjective “good” evolves to “better” and then finally, its superlative form, “best.” We might say the service at a restaurant is good. During our next visit there it is better. If it is the best, it is as good as it gets. By definition, it can’t get better. The focus is not on making it better. But if organizations are going to improve, if they’re going to survive, they must understand that there is no “best” practice. The focus needs to be on continual improvement, not getting to the best practice and being finished with the focus on improving.

Many organizations comb through industry data so they can compare and benchmark themselves with the competition. They search for “best practices” that they can adopt in a hurry. They attend conferences to hear case studies and try to integrate and copy what others are doing, assuming their “best practices” will dovetail into their own systems well.

The pursuit of “best practices” is a poor replacement for leadership. It is important to be aware of what the competition and the industry are doing, and what lessons there are to learn, so you don’t reinvent the wheel each time you need to solve a problem. However, leadership’s job is to scan the environment and be aware of barriers and opportunities in the market. Rather than spending precious time pursuing “best practices” and playing catch-up, leaders can create an environment where energy is spent improving, innovating, and discovering new ways to add more value for their customers.

Author : Marcia Daszko is a leading business strategist and catalyst for leadership and organizational transformation. She believes and teaches innovation in leadership thinking. She has 25 years of proven success as a Founder and CEO of a consulting firm, Marcia Daszko & Associates, and is an executive team workshop facilitator.
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