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Guest Spotlight: Craig Abbott – When Best Practice is not Best Practice

by | Sep 12, 2011 | Guest Spotlights

Consulting Solutions Manager Craig Abbott, is back, posing the question, is a “best practice” for another business really a best practice for your business?

As a business consultant it is common place for me to hear the phrase “Best Practice” whether it come in the form of a question from a client or words from my own mouth.  In my world “Best Practice” is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved by other means, and that is used as a benchmark.  This is how Business Dictionary.com defines the subject and I have no reason to disagree.  At a high level who would not want to do what is considered “Best”?  If it works for one successful organization they why wouldn’t it work for yours?  But every time I am asked by a client what is the “Best Practice” in an area I cannot help to remember a phrase we have heard from our parents, “If Jimmy jumped off a bridge does that mean you would too?”

One of my favorite bosses and I had a standing argument.  I was young and eager to make an impression at the company.  I wanted to innovate.  I wanted a new and fresh idea for every problem we had to address.  My boss on the other hand always wanted to see what the best companies in our industry were doing and copy that.  My response was always, “If we do that, then why do they need us?”  I will admit, I still love to think of myself as an innovator or cutting edge, but in reality, I did listen to my old boss and think I have a much better picture now.

Like most things in life, compromise is the reality between my method and my bosses approach.  Learn what is “Best Practice” and then apply it to your organizations desired results, strategy and yes budget.  Below are some things to consider when looking at “Best Practice”

  • Best Practice is sometimes expensive requiring more software or resource cost.
  • Just because your competition does things well in an area does not mean they are aiming for the same desired results as your organization. For example your competition seems to have higher customer service ratings than you.  But that is their number one internal goal so they are spending more money on the issue.  They are a more mature company in the market place and have the margins to do this.  You on the other hand are under pressure from investors to get net income up; their best practice in customer service will take you away from your company’s main goal.
  • Innovating new ideas or ways to do business could give you a competitive advantage
  • What seems like best practice from the outside is really a mess when dealing with it from the inside, you know, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
  • There is often not a “Best Practice” but “Best Practices” or in other words, do not concentrate on the best way, just stay away from the bad ways of doing business.

Below is how we work with clients on process development:

  • We get overall direction from client management, they are the ones with the vision and they are the decision makers, in other words the project sponsor.
  • In a given area, say purchasing, we sit with the users and observe what they do and interview them.
  • We chart out the process based on three areas:
    • How they currently do business
    • Changes they want to make
    • Our experience in “Best Practice”
    • How the software handles a transaction
  • From this we flow chart the transaction and review it with the appropriate client employees.  During these meetings we tweak the process, keeping upper management’s direction in mind.
  • We get approval from upper management or the project sponsor.

As you can see, “Best Practice” is one small part of the equation although it is an important part.  Always consider and use “Best Practice” methodology where you can and only worry if your teenager inquires about “Best Practice” to clean his/her room!

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