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No doubt "best practices" mean different things to different people. Here's our definition. "Best practices" are documented strategies or tactics used successfully by a highly admired person or company.
The person or company does not have to be highly successful in every respect. That requirement would be much too difficult to meet. But in the area addressed by the best practices, that person or company should be recognized as one of the best in the business.
So all you need to do is identify best practices that apply to your situation and follow them. Right? Not quite!
Best practices must be fine tuned for your situation.
Some of the things that affect the implementation of best practices are corporate strategies, culture and values. Techniques that work for a "we want to be the best in the business" organization will never apply to a "we want to be the lowest cost provider" organization. Similarly, a company that prides itself on innovation will follow different best practices than one that pursues an emulate and enhance approach.
Identifying best practices is easy enough. Tailoring them to your situation can be astonishingly hard. Everyone wants to emulate companies like Southwest Airlines, Dell Computer or Wal-Mart Stores. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to do so within an established organization. Those companies have created corporate cultures that actively support and enhance their best practices.
It's not just about the process!
Establishing a best practice should never be a goal. A best practice is a means to an end. What are you really trying to achieve? That's the goal. How can the best practice you've identified help you reach that goal? Will that best practice work in your organization? If not, can the practice or the organization be changed without introducing other problems?
You also need to consider whether or not the best practice impacts a core competency of your organization. If a core competency is not impacted, you may be able to experiment or perhaps you should outsource the function. If a core competency is impacted, be very careful. Get buy-in. Make sure you understand the full effects of the implementation or adaptation.
Best today and worst tomorrow?
We're not against identifying and implementing best practices. In fact, we strongly recommend it. Just make sure you fully understand what you're getting into and work with a professional to do it right.
Finally, keep one last point in mind. Best practices are fleeting. Business keeps changing. Think ahead to the next evolution in best practices based on your own vision, culture and strategy. If you don't, the competition will!
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To learn more about how DAMICON analyzes workflows and develops best practices, read our article called "Is Your Group Effective?".
We'd like to share with you Ten Principles of Leadership adapted from Masao Nemoto of Toyota.
1) Improvement after improvement - seek continuous, incremental improvement
2) Coordinate between groups - share ideas, best practices and pitfalls
3) Everyone speaks - encourage participation and learning by all team members
4) Do not scold - don't criticize or punish mistakes; encourage problem reporting and find root causes
5) Others should understand what you do - teaching and presentation encourage collaboration and make it more effective
6) Rotate and train the best employees - motivate and challenge the best
7) Tasks without deadlines are not tasks - they are far less likely to be completed
8) Rehearsal is a training opportunity - use reporting or presentation rehearsals to explore understanding and train others
9) Inspection fails unless top management acts - once problems are defined and acknowledged, take action to resolve them
10) Ask subordinates, "What can I do for you?" - this demonstrates commitment to employees and their jobs