Next practice vs. best practice

April 26, 2010 at 9:27 am | Posted in Software Engineering, Systems Improvement | Leave a comment

Last week I came across an interesting article by C.K. Prahalad titled “Best Practices Get You Only So far” at http://hbr.org/2010/04/column-best-practices-get-you-only-so-far/ar/1
 
What I gathered from the article is here,
“Companies identify best practices, particularly those of market leaders, and try to implement them. It may allow enterprises to catch up with competitors, but it won’t turn them into market leaders. Organizations become winners by spotting big opportunities and inventing next practices. Next practices are all about innovation: imagining what the future will look like. If you look for ways to develop next practices, opportunities abound. In fact, executives are constrained not by resources but by their imagination.”
 
Though he was addressing primarily the “C” level, I feel it is equally applicable to all levels of an organization. We should know what has worked well in the past for us & others. But rather than blindly following, we should ask ourselves following questions,

  • Why did it work in the past?
  • Have the conditions changed?
  • Would it continue to work in future?
  • If not, what would work?

If we can inculcate this thought process at all levels of an organization, it will set in motion a culture of sustained improvement and make us ready not just for present but also for future. But it is easier said than done. It requires a different mindset and thought process. It is quite difficult to get out of the comfort zone. Personally I found the book “Power of now” by Eckhart Tolle very useful. When you practice the suggestions about focusing on now, with some practice your attachment to past & future gets reduced and it becomes much easier to get out of your comfort zones.

Another useful thing to do is to capture the context and reasons for a given process or policy when it is being formulated or subsequently updated. It will provide invaluable information to answer the questions given above.

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