Best Practices = Mediocrity
Today’s Dilbert (Sept 3rd) was especially insightful. The boss says that they will be adopting “best practices” just like everyone else in the industry. Dilbert makes the observation that is everyone else is doing it then it’s the same as “mediocrity.”
That one made me sit back and think. Everyone in IT always talks about “best practices.” You hear it in everything from software development, support, implementation and even sales and marketing. And, certainly, there are some very good practices out there. But, are they the “best”?
To assume that something is a “best practice” means that nothing is going to get any better. That takes all the fun out of it and removes the opportunity for innovation.
I like the approach that practitioners of Lean Manufacturing take. (Note: Lean as a practice has gone far beyind manufacturing in the last several years, with all departments and many different industries deploying it)
One of the main philosophies within lean is to aim for "kaizen" or continuous improvement. For example, if between manufacturing runs your change over takes three minutes, how can you get it to two? Once you get to two, what changes can you make to get it down to one? How about less than one minute?
On and on it goes as the everyone in the organization looks for ways they can improve whatever it is that they are doing in pursuit of the company’s goals. It’s not the pursuit of perfection or a “best practice” but the pursuit of improvement and a "better" practice that matters.
Same with marketing. For example, in your industry, direct mail response rates may be 2%, but how can you get them to 3%? How about 4%? If you can’t, are there ways you could be spending your marketing dollar more effectively?
You don’t have to make all changes at once, but continually asking, “Is this the best we can do?” and making small changes will allow you to continue to improve. And, to me, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.