It is interesting how every industry and profession has best practices. It is also interesting how similar they are across industries as you will see in some of the examples below.
I personally like to see what the best practices are in different industries and then modify them to fit the situation. A best practice may be developed around something that you are already doing well in your organization. It may also be developed around an area needing improvement in which case you may be using the expertise of somebody outside of your organization. Either way, success does not breed success if you aren’t always working to improve your processes and procedures. Now is a good time to be working on your best practices.
What should you keep in mind when developing a best practice? Here’s how to start your blueprint for success.
The five components of best practices are that they are:
1. A compendium of relevant knowledge gained from experience
Best practices are methods or techniques that consistently show results superior to those achieved with other means. In other words, there has been some trial and error going on to find what works for your specific organization.
In Toastmasters, I have been testing multiple education and leadership tracking systems used by different clubs across the world. It’s taken almost two years, but we have found one that appears to be relevant and working for our group.
2. Immediately applicable to a task at hand
This means a best practice is highly focused and applicable to a task that you are doing “Right Now.”
So what are you doing right now? Maybe you are speaking with a client on the telephone. A best practice for this in a paperless office may involve you opening your CRM system and noting the date, time, a brief transcription of items discussed, then emailing a copy to the client when you are done, plus adding a reminder of when to call your client back.
3. Distilled to their essentials
A best practice is NOT a book. It may be in a book, but it is short and too the point. Some companies may write a couple of short paragraphs on how to do a task. For more technical industries in which a mistake could be dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of the employees or the public (like refineries handling chemicals), the document may be several pages taking the person step-by-step through the process.
4. Usable information
I once worked in a photography studio where I was briefly trained on how to operate the security system. One day, I received a phone call from the owner to go to the studio and disarm the system; the alarm was going off and the police were there. I quickly learned that I had not been taught how to disarm the system if it had been tripped. That would have been useful information.
5. Kept relevant and up-to-date by inviting feedback from those involved in the process.
Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is like using a company defined “Best Practice” that is no longer applicable. As technology changes and our staffs or volunteers change, we must review and update our best practices to keep them relevant. We must also involve those who will be using the process (See #1 above if you forgot why.)
Let’s use time sheets in this example. I worked with a company that used excel to record employees hours per project. Each employee would fill in one sheet every day in 15 minute increments, then at the end of two weeks, would take all of the information on that sheet and transfer it to the master sheet. Not too big of a deal if you are only working on one project, I’ve been known to work on up to 12 large projects at a time. The administrative assistant then took the master sheets and input it into the accounting system, she also took the master files and created task break downs per project for clients wanting to see what went into their projects. A best practice in this situation would be to use a time sheet system that integrates with your accounting system so that multiple reports can be run with a few button clicks. Why? Would you rather:
- pay ~$15 per month per employee to keep yourself and your employees productive or
- pay your employees at least 2 hours of non-billable time at least twice per month, plus the time of your accountant and maybe even your administrative staff entering the information into your system, then on top of all of that, charging the client. (Tip: Clients don’t like this option.)
Where in your organization can you start implementing some best practices? Now that you know what the components are…create some best practices for your organization! If you are just starting out, I gave you a small one on item #2.
Share some of your best practices below…