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.