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Yes we have covered this ground before, and I suspect we'll cover it a lot more before we're through, because people just DON'T GET IT - yet. Some of them never will, and they'll wonder why their businesses get swallowed up by some disruption in their market that they couldn't respond to with "best practice". "Best practice" is such a weasel phrase because it implies that the situation it describes is as far as you can go - if it is true in your case, then you are atrophying by definition. If it is not true, then you have to accept that it might be "good" practice, even "better" than someone else, but claiming "best" is arrogant in the extreme.


well, I suppose "best" in this context is rather a marketing term for "good enough" - however, for most companies it's still way better than they currently are. It's a consultant's tool to say "I show you ow it's better in the real world" than simply saying "I can help you do better" - which is more credible?


Granted - "best practice" is probably better than most. But what has worked for someone else will not necessarily work for you, and even if it does you'll only be where they were two years ago. The idea is not to engage a competitor in an area that they are already good in - it's to find a new battlefield altogether! That's Porter' point in the interview Sig cites - strategy is about where you are going to be different from everybody else - not imitating.


sure it is, but as I see, lots of companies would be happy just keeping up with the best (although they won't ever admit it :) Most companies are too busy with their most pressing stuff (be it internal or external) than think about these things...



If they spent time thinking about this stuff, then the pressing stuff wouldn't be pressing.


@John - yes!!

@Peter - you won't keep up with the best, because they keep innovating and you fall further behind. Imitation may flatter them, but you'll never do it as well as they did, and the chances that what they did works for you will be slim to non-existent. And if all you can do is TRY to copy others, you're already dead, you just haven't fallen down yet!


BTW - let me apologise if I came all over bombastic, but some of this is quite close to home at the moment - I'm having this sort of discussion at work, and I think I'm getting shouted down, so my reaction here is possibly my insecurity showing!

Jack Yan

There are elements, for example, in branding that can be measured, e.g. the commitment of management to a branding programme, the strength of an existing image, the understanding of the brand by a channel member. A brand strategy must be unique, sure, and the strategy should not replicate that of anyone else.
¶ However, you can draw a distinction between lousy practices and good ones when it comes to those measurable things, and that is what ‘best practices’ have been about. You are right, guys: this is limiting, because ‘best’ just means ‘good’.
¶ Simple example: bad practice is a brand with no management commitment. Good practice is a brand with management commitment. Taking a client toward the latter (and away from the former) is one of my duties when I work on a branding project. History has shown what the client should avoid doing; perhaps the good practices are a baseline and it is up to us to find ways for the client to exceed them.


Jack - you speak of hygeine factors, and it's true that you have to have a certain level of performance to be in the game - your practices may not be "best" but they have to be good enough not to hobble you. But the name of the game is finding ways of exceeding 'good' in, not ALL, but certainly SOME critical parts of the business. The art (and maybe this is YOUR business) is picking which parts of the business are good enough, and which ones have to exceed good.

Jack Yan

Good points, Ric, and you are right. There are cases where we have to be realistic and take the client through the process to the ‘good enough’ stage—(roughly speaking) where everything on the questionnaire is answered. But for major strategic decisions—e.g. coming up with a vision, and especially things that can’t be measured properly—exceeding expectations has to be the order of the day.

Angus McDonald

I think "Best Practice" is great when you're talking about non-core aspects of your business. For example, I want my company to follow best practices in payroll management, accounts and HR - these are areas where being good enough is fine, we just need to be professional about it.

It is in core business areas, which for my company includes Sales/Marketing, that we need to be innovative and push the edges of what has been done before.


Some time ago I came up with a model to contrast competitive differentiation with process definition while trying to work out where a business should/could be using bespoke software (and I see Thingamy as a tool for creating "your own" system). If your process is different in an advantageous way, and is not "well defined", then "best practice" software probably won't cut it. If you're interested, the blog post is:


Best practices are very important. I am amused by the semantic pap on this thread. If you run a company with more than 50 people, and have different people working on similar things at different times, or have people leaving and others taking over, then a strong guideline of what has worked is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY, not a good-to-have.

Here is an example so the SME-minded posters on this site can comprehend. Let us say the west coast US branch of my 100,000 strong company does a mobile project in the US. Two years later the same mobile technology is available in Poland and Italy, and we would like to do the same project again. The teams in Poland and Italy can *really* use guidelines or best practices (or learnings from experiences of others) to frame their thinking as they go about it.

So if you want a bit more credible support for this panglossian dream called Thingamy, which one hopes is a bit more solid than its name, then stop deriding what big companies do. They might not 'get' your little worlds because they don't need to (and when they do, they will). Apologies for the arrogance that crept into my post but I have had enough of meaningless blog-rants like these.


No prob Bloggermax, apologies accepted :)

"Let us say the west coast US branch of my 100,000 strong company does a mobile project in the US. Two years later the same mobile technology is available in Poland and Italy, and we would like to do the same project again. The teams in Poland and Italy can *really* use guidelines or best practices (or learnings from experiences of others) to frame their thinking as they go about it."

Precisely, that I do comprehend and back wholeheartedly - using your own best practices, excellent, suspect even bettering your own practices underway - not copying somebody else's practices. That's the way it should be!


@Bloggermax - As i said in an earlier comment, there is a certain level of performance in business which is a prerequisite for survival - it's what I call a hygeine factor. If you look carefully, I don't deride good practices within your own business - although what you refer to is more like corporate memory or learning. When I refer to "best practice" it is always in inverted commas, referring to the consultant-speak used to justify the purchase of very expensive software/consulting/gimmick/etc. Is that semantics? Maybe. Is it pap? I'd like to think not, but if it amuses you then at least it has achieved something ....

Jack Yan

I see what Ric means here. For example: if a consultant (like me!) says you must do A, B and C to achieve best practice in, say, rolling out the brand, then the company may well target those three things. But what about D, E and F which might be things that my previous research did not foresee? Whatever we implement will be partly guided by a rear-view mirror or the theories of a past time. A, B and C might still be competent, and it might even be a great roll-out, because we've managed to cover differentiation and media in a planning stage. But if we can exceed A, B and C (say in Bloggermax’s example of another country), then we should.
¶ It probably is partly semantics—I don’t personally use the hygiene factor term, which is where my confusion came in, and I think they are what Bloggermax means by ‘absolute necessities’.


I appreciate your take on this subject and think you make a valid point that anytime we copy, we're doing more of the same, not distinguishing ourselves in any way. Still, I think innovation can be born from following a trail already blazed--and then veering off into uncharted territory.

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