During my early years as a practising engineer I remember being preached to about ‘best practice’. Later as an engineering manager I was the one doing the preaching. “To be a world class engineering team we need to do what world class engineering teams do, implement best practice”. But what does best practice really mean and is it really the best thing to do?
The ‘myth’ is that for any operation there is a best combination of processes to yield the best outcome for the minimum effort or cost. For example, if you need to track and manage software issues you’d look at how the best software companies in the world track and manage software issues. You’d automatically label their process as best practice and implement the same. You’d be forgiven for assuming this means best outcome for minimum effort, ... or would you?
As I see it there are two main problems with the idea of ‘best practice’. They are suitability and mediocrity.
Is an industry best practice really the best solution for your operation? Would taking on a best practice impose process and rules counter productive to your unique operation? Would this so called best practice actually put you at a disadvantage?
As an advocate of innovation this issue is one of my favourites. How can you really shine if all you do is the same as everyone else? Sure it is important to know what best practice is, not to copy but to benchmark outcome against effort. This is what is really important to understand as it allows you to be innovative and craft new ways of doing things.
So next time you’re preached to about best practice or find yourself in the best practice pulpit, stop and think about what you are really trying to achieve. Look at industry best practice to benchmark outcome against effort then innovative and design your own exceptional operation.
Robert Rath – http://www.innovation-mentor.com