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"Best Practices" In Your Company: Energy Gain Or Drain?

Nov 23, 2007
Does your company management get excited about "best practices"? In theory, as all of the organization's employees work at their jobs, some of them are bound to discover better ways of doing things. A smart organization will have a way to detect these better ideas and spread them throughout the organization.

This energizes executives. They see a continually improving organization, one in which the next boost in the productivity of one department or job function may come from another branch thousands of miles away, or from an entirely different department.

Unfortunately, many companies don't apply best practices to collecting and spreading best practices! They botch the job again and again, alienating everyone who is supposed to apply the best practices along the way.

It's easy to tell when that's happening. When management announces training, or new policies, on a recently discovered "best practice," do employees groan and start thinking about how to waste as little time as possible on this latest fad?

Are the front lines receptive, ready for an injection of ideas and new energy that will contribute to the company's success? Or are they resistant, making your latest "best practices" initiative just one more energy drain, one more distraction from their "real" jobs?

If "best practices" don't get much of a reception in your organization, don't blame the employees! It's more likely the system for transferring best practices from one region or department to others is not working very well.

And that's probably because you forgot the basics:

1. You didn't really start with a best practice! Maybe good initial results within one region aren't really due to the new practice, and won't hold up. If you rush to judgment based on early, incomplete data, you'll have everybody else adopting the new practice just about the time you discover that it doesn't work.

2. You tend to get all your great ideas from just a few regions or divisions. The rest of the company gets tired of always implementing suggestions from the favored few, and they'll automatically resist the next ideas that they know come from your favorite market, department, or vice-president!

3. You were too optimistic about how widely you could extend the practice. Sometimes the principles that work well in one division or region don't work in another. You need to seriously examine the "local" conditions of a given region or department before you assume the new practice can be productive there.

4. You turned a "bottom up" approach into a highly authoritarian "top down" approach. Management churns out "best practice" orders without attempting to get any buy-in from the employees who will apply them. And sometimes they "improve" the original practices to the point where they don't even work in the region or department that invented them in the first place!

5. You didn't make careful, well-designed employee communications the centerpiece of your efforts to spread the best practice. The biggest reason that best practices don't take root is poor communication. You expected employees to embrace the idea without proper positioning, explanation, and follow through. You didn't sell the ideas, and present the rewards and benefits that the new practices would bring to the employees (not just to the company).

There is a cure for most of these problems: patience. Few of these newly discovered best practices are so remarkable that they will transform your organization's fortunes overnight. You can afford the time to thoroughly understand these practices, truly measure how well they work, and to communicate them effectively to other employees.

Best practices can contribute to your success -- but only if you apply the best possible practices for collecting, communicating, and nurturing them throughout your company.

(c) copyright 2007 Will Kenny
About the Author
Will Kenny, owner of Best Training Practices, helps organizations deliver messages with impact, whether enhancing employee performance or reaching prospects and customers. Visit http://www.besttrainingpractices.com/ for free articles and case studies that will help you spread best practices.
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