Good practices…….

For years organisations have, as part of organisational learning, sought to identify “good practices” in other organisations that could be implemented in their own. But they have often found difficulty in doing this. This is in part due to a lack of ready access to high quality, up-to-date repositories of this information. But it is also due, in my view, to weaknesses at source in the identification of these practices. Too often the basis on which such practices are identified is highly subjective. So a few suggestions:

1. If you are trying to identify “good” practices for use in your organisation, firstly be very clear why you are seeking them and what, as specifically as possible, it is that you are looking for. So for example, it could be that your organisation is struggling to improve the level of value you are delivering to a specific stakeholder group. It could be that you’ve looked at the drivers, or enablers, of that value realisation within your organisation and have identified the areas where you consider improvements would generate the increase in performance you are seeking. Armed with a clear identification of the aspects of value delivery performance that need improvement and the specific areas of organisational activity that need improvement you have a good starter for external learning. Then when looking at so called “good” practices in other organisations that relate to your area of interest, always look for empirical evidence that the so called “good” practice does in fact deliver the levels of stakeholder value that you are seeking to achieve in your organisation. Challenge the organisation concerned to fully demonstrate a clear cause and effect relationship between the practice or practices under consideration and clear, accurate data that shows the value delivery related performance they are achieving.

2. If you are trying to identify “good practices” in an organisation because it is part of your job to do so, then apply the same approach as above. In other words ensure that you only identify as a “good practice” one that consistently delivers exceptional results in terms of a specific stakeholder group or groups. Through probing questions check that the connection is clear and strong. Avoid any tenuous links that don’t stand up to proper scrutiny.

And for any seeking to adopt so called “good practices” in their own organisation, avoid the simple mistake of assuming that what works and delivers well in another organisation will do so in your own. The organisations concerned may be quite differenct in many key respects covering the external environment in which they operate, their internal environments, their products/services, culture, size, history etc etc.

1 thought on “Good practices…….

  1. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for a very thought-provoking article. It was very insightful and echoed some thoughts that I have had but not expressed as well as you did. I have acquired organisational experience in two very different economic environments, one , in England, commonly described as a ‘developed’ country, and the other Trinidad & Tobago, commonly classified as a ‘developing’ country. If I received a dollar on every occasion I heard of or witnessed an attempt to simply copy a system that ‘the experts’ report as operating well in the ‘developed’ country, I would be rich….

    One of the best example being the National Health Service. Based on a quest to find ‘the best practice’ health care system, the Trinidad & Tobago government spent literally millions of T&T dollars trying to replicate the organisational structures, infrastructure, equipment and training of the NHS to create the local version. This was a well thought through decision – there are many political, societal and even linguistic similarities Howvere, in my opinion, one essential element could not be replicated – the history that led to the creation of the NHS, and hence, in my opinion, the ethos/core values that held the system together.

    For instance, I worked in the local (T&T) health service in 1999 – 2000, on every occasion that the local nurses ‘withheld their enthuiasm’ , or the doctors had an orchestrated ‘sick out’, I would be asked ‘how did you deal with this in the NHS?’. Amazing as it may seem both systems suffered the same ailments, under funding, poorly paid staff, not enough beds/equipment, over crowding, shortage of critical staff etc….At that time I was happy to report, “sorry I have worked in the NHS for sixteen (16) years and never heard of this happening”. When I thought about why, I put it down to the complicated love/hate relationship the UK citizens have with the NHS, causing the clinical staff to shy away from taking similiar action. This relationship, up to that point in the NHS’ history, was such that a withdrawal of enthusiasm simply was not an option.

    From my unscientific observation, you can copy the tangible aspects of the practice/system (even the problems), but depending on the nature of the system or practice, it is is the intangible that could make the difference in whether the inherented/copied system or practice travelled well.

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