Best Practices Are Not Always Best Practice

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Best Practices. Another great business term we all know and love. We love to throw out in meetings because it sounds good and rarely will anyone disagree.

It’s safe. But is it wise.

Who said that adopting best practices is right for your business? Maybe it’s the wrong thing to do in your case.

Sacrilege? Maybe, but here are few thoughts to consider before deciding whether to adopt best practices or develop your own best practices.

Are They Transferable? If the best practices are to work effectively in your business, then the businesses have to have similarities. Do you share similar strategies, customer groups, work forces, business models, margin structures. Before deciding if adopting best practices make sense, make sure you are not trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

Is there a Downside? What happens if you are wrong? Can you respond quickly and refocus? Make sure that you have an escape plan if you don’t see the results you anticipate. However, don’t bail too early since any new initiative may initially reduce productivity. Ensure that you have a clear set of evaluation criteria, aligned with a time-line when you expect to see some deliverables that will confirm you are moving in the right direction.

Are the Best Practices the Success Factor? Companies may succeed — or not — for many reasons. Don’t be too quickly assume that the success of a company is because of their “best practices”. Some companies succeed in spite of themselves because of a host of other reasons. So before you adopt their best practices, be sure to examine other reasons for their success. If there are not evident in your business environment, dig deeper before making a decision.

My Perspective: Studying best practices is great input to your own thinking. It is always good business to look at other businesses, both inside and outside your industry. But don’t fall in love too quickly with the success of others.

Evaluate and test anything you see as a best practice against your own business model to make sure it makes sense. Selectively choose those that make sense and then adapt versus adopt to your business. That way you create your own best practices based on the best thinking that is applicable to your business model — and they will be uniquely suited to your business.

And then other companies will look at you and want to copy your best practices.

Remember, even best practices were once a new way of thinking that drove success in a business — that’s why other people copy them.

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