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Thirsty Thursdays: Best Practice = Mediocrity

Best Practice Modeling = Mediocre Organizations

With the pace of change today, and its frequency, it’s hard to embrace best practice modeling anymore. In past roles I’ve had the experience where the leaders of a company were hell bent on finding and copying best practices. Despite my attempts to advise that using that data should be a guideline and not an exact recipe, several organizations barreled through the research and adopted processes and programs almost to the letter. 90 days into the initiative the results weren’t tracking as the research indicated. 180 days in was clear which parts were working, albeit not to the degree that was predicted, and what parts were so off base they were a total waste of time. What was once the “go-to” mode for many major companies spells doom for any firm still handcuffing themselves to it. Why?

We all know the saying, “nothing good is ever easy.” This holds true for best-practice modeling as well. Thinking that because your company is in the same industry as another, or a direct competitor, means that what they’re doing will automagically work for yours is foolhardy.

A copy and paste methodology spells doom for your project. If you don’t take the data with a grain of salt, invest the time and intellectual horsepower to understand how it may, and may not, work for your particular set of business challenges, then you can’t be disappointed when you’re disappointed. If you snooze, you looze.

This is an easy one…statistically speaking if you continue to utilize the same means to research and solve your company’s struggles, you’re always managing towards the middle…a homogenized set of results that fail to meet your specific needs, unique culture and set of circumstances which often change over time.

And if many organizations follow the same course then an entire region, trade sector, or other sizable piece of an industry all move towards average. And how do you know the data you’re using isn’t the sum total of all the other organizations using “average” information?

Failing to take into context your culture, workforce, strategies and goals almost inevitably means you’re wasting your time with best practice research. No two organizations are identical and even for those so closely matched it can be argued that the difference in timing alone means market forces, consumer/client needs and other variables are different.

However, there is one caveat to this warning. If your company and it’s current challenges, desired goals and outcomes are exactly identical to the data you have on the other businesses then it will probably work. If you want to play those odds...

What are the good uses of Best Practice data?


Certainly gathering data on the competition, how they create successful solutions, and even how they disrupt an industry or market segment is good practice. Having that information is helpful provided it’s used in some very specific and diligent ways. The single greatest danger in attempting to use best-practice information is failing to provide appropriate context for your needs.

The most critical part of the undertaking is ensuring you conduct an exhaustive analysis of the data and practices against your company, culture, needs, goals, strategy, etc. For example, perhaps your compensation strategy for entry-level jobs is low base pay and better-than-market incentive compensation. You believe that you can find plenty of workers with the skill set and only want to pay for actual results, protecting your budgets and margins. Your best-practice data from a competitor doesn’t have their compensation philosophy included but they pay over-market on base pay so attract a higher caliber of entry-level professional. Then you copy their best practice but your staff can’t operate at the same level so you fail to get the same results. And by just copying their best practice you’ll never know why your efforts failed to deliver results.

Primarily best-practice data should be used as a guide to help your business generate ideas that are relevant and useful to your company. It can show you how other companies have handled similar challenges and be helpful to frame an internal conversation on how to address yours. It can also serve as inspiration if you put it into the hands of key contributors for them to consider how they could adapt those ideas and tactics to their current situation and future strategies. Sharing the information with others inside your firm, to the degree it’s permissible to disseminate, helps to promote collaboration and creativity. Giving those closest to the business the data and latitude to make intelligent choices can only help to generate relevant results for your company using the external information. GOOD LUCK!!!

Thirsty Thursdays are about our collective thirst for learning and knowledge.  It’s not about Beer:30 [although HR4ALL is all for that, too!]  We hope this weekly nugget of knowledge opens your mind and gives you a reason to pause and think differently.    Have a great weekend everyone! 

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