07 Jul 2015 20:55 IST

Don’t go by ‘best practices’ mindlessly

You have to evolve your own framework as you grow

‘These are the best practices’ is often proffered as a ‘convincing’ justification for doing something in a certain way. It is usually trotted out by anyone who doesn’t have a logical explanation. People who can get away with this are typically consultants who think you know nothing about the subject. It saves them the effort of rustling up facts and arguments. The expression also comes in handy to bosses who would like to avoid inconvenient discussions.

You have just stepped into the corporate world. You are itching to slice and dice data. You are impatient to explore and experiment with new possibilities. Following the ‘best practices’ handed down to you will save you all that effort.

Some instances

‘Best practices’ are responsible for such things as:

— The width of aisles in diverse places — from aircraft to supermarkets

— Serving sizes (quantities) of food and beverages in restaurants and cafes

— Width and pitch of aircraft seats

— Employee engagement activities like cafeteria menus, birthday parties, outbound team building events etc.

— Open-office spaces enclosed by cubicles lined along the windows

— Business processes embedded in enterprise systems like ERP

‘Best Practices’ are those that have been found to be the ‘best’ (supposedly) by some organisations. If a particular set of best practices is considered optimal by only a few companies, it should be obvious that they may not be suitable for you. If many organisations have found them be to ‘best’, it stands to reason you will be just be about average or mediocre by following them.

Be aware

You should be on guard the moment you hear this phrase. It is quite likely that someone is being lazy or clever, or both. At this point if you dig around a bit, you will have a lot to think about. You would do well by calling them mere ‘practices’ and find out whether they are research-based practices or proven ones, emerging practices or mandatory ones.

Established businesses rely on best practices because their managers think they save them effort and risks.

Start-up ventures have no time for hunting for best practices. They evolve their practices as they go. They might just follow established practices (proven or mandatory) in non-core areas such as accounting and HR policies.

The term ‘best practices’ is misleading. They don’t give you any competitive advantage. Whatever they are, these ‘practices’ are not going to be enough for you. They can at best provide you with a starting line. You will have to develop your own practices.

Exclusions: There are some special areas where there are ‘mandatory practices’. Examples are: food safety, environment protection, drug-testing, engineering practices. In such cases the scope of innovation must be severely curtailed for obvious reasons. The above post is not applicable in such cases.