Business Transformation: Penchant for Best Practices

business transformation

I am currently working on an enterprise-wide transformation engagement where my team and I are involved in creating new business processes and building the To Be state for the customer’s business. It’s been an interesting engagement so far and a few days back, I was out for lunch with a fellow colleague where the following discussion happened:

Colleague: So how are things moving along? Are you holding up alright with this engagement?

Me: Yes, it’s been good so far. But there is one issue that keeps bugging me.

Colleague: And what is that?

Me: Best practices!

Colleague (A bit surprised): And why are best practices an issue? Don’t we always support the use of best practices? What do you mean?

Me: Well, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any issues with using best practices. But I do have an issue when companies become hell-bent on deploying best practices – not because they “need” to follow the best practices, but simply because they “want” to follow them, just because the other companies are!

This really got me thinking. What is a best practice? Is it just an industry standard or is it something that a company applies to its business that works wonders for them? They used it as a base to apply to other facets of their business and voilà! Success achieved and there you have it – a best practice.

I understand the concept of applying a best practice to your business to gain rich dividends and I am all for it when it comes down to applying industry standards and best practices. But the issue is when the following happen:

The Blind Followers

Many companies blindly start copying other successful firms because they feel the practices/standards the successful companies are following are best practices which might not be always true. Just because one thing worked for a company it shouldn’t simply be copied blindly for another. Different companies require different best practices/industry standards to address their specific pain areas. Tailoring to unique requirements is important.

The False Justifications

We debate and deliberate with customers on what would work best for them and what process they should follow to enable standardization across the organization. Although the customers agree with our thought process more often than not, we often see that they use the “best practice” as a one size fits all answer to all their problems.

Let me explain. You propose a solution to your customer and substantiate it with quantifiable data points and business values like for example, the customer will save 10 minutes per hour if they will use the proposed solution. You might be talking sense but the customer might say something like – “I like your idea but I would like to go forward with what the firm ABC is doing”.

And when you ask for the reason behind going forward with what the other firm is doing, you get a standard reply –“Well, don’t you see! That’s a best practice. That’s what the other firm did. Let’s do it”. Customers often use the term best practice as a blanket justification to support their argument.

What is the way out?

Companies need to think through and understand what works best for them. As a consultant, one needs to help their customers adapt to best practices. Rather than just doing a lift and shift, they should amend and adjust the industry standards and best practices to address customer pain areas.

Customers often tend to think in isolation. They just think about one work stream, one work module and one functionality. A consultant’s job is to make them come out of this blinker approach. Help them understand the bigger picture. Hand hold them and make them visualize the best possible solution. And make them comfortable with the view that the best possible solution might not always be the best practice!