Organizational excellence – Importance of Practice excellence

May 9, 2011 at 9:59 am | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence, Practice Excellence | Leave a comment

We are used to processes. We don’t think of practices as much, though they are far more important in the context of the organizational excellence. There are major differences between the two. Practices are what we do; processes define for us what we should do. Unlike processes which are expected to be documented, practices may be documented if it is useful to do so but it is not a must; they can be formal or informal. Practices are omnipresent in all walks of our lives, including our professional work. The difference between the processes & practices can be easily seen from the terms we associate with them. For example, we are all familiar with process compliance however you can’t aim for practice compliance because they are too diverse and difficult to mandate.

As individuals & teams, we are constantly choosing between available options and observing whether it helped. When in a given set of conditions a certain option works, we tend to prefer that option over others in future. After a few such repetitions, it forms into a practice and gets absorbed into our way of working. After some time, with frequent use it becomes almost an automatic & instantaneous reaction without thinking or even being aware of it.

This is both a benefit as well as a problem. It helps us to go about our daily lives far more effortlessly and with speed. It provides a momentum to our work. The problem starts when the condition under which a practice was useful changes. There is a saying that old habits die hard. We continue to believe that our set way of working is the best because it has worked so well in the past; little realizing that time has come to relook at it. What is true for the individuals is equally true for the teams & groups. However, here an additional factor of peer pressure comes into play which creates the resistance. Rather than being momentum any more, it becomes inertia. Moreover, few people in a team / group start realizing the need for change while others are happy to maintain the status quo. This leads to conflicts within the group and the effect depends on the power structures. As more and more members feel that change is necessary and it reaches a critical mass, change comes about, either peacefully or violently.

The preferred way of working not only remains in the collective consciousness of the group, it seeps into the culture of the organization and is passed from generation to generation of employees. Thus the way of working persists even after almost all the members are new. This has a hidden yet a very powerful effect.

Given the importance of practices in achieving organizational excellence, it is very important to understand the whole mechanics of their formation, absorption and change; in short how to achieve practice excellence. Over next few weeks, I would like to explore it further. If I come across something interesting and useful, I will share it with you. If you have any thoughts ideas or information on this area, please share them with me.

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