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What is a Best Practice?
Best practices are “those practices that have been shown to produce superior results; selected by a systematic process; and judged as exemplary, good, or successfully demonstrated”, these practices are then adapted to fit a particular organisation. Benchmarking is a systematic process used for identifying and implementing best or better practices.
 
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Best practice and world-class performance

The use of best practices, when incorporated within all areas of an organisation, including its stakeholder relationships, can lead to an organisation attaining world class performance. Often, an organisation may use one or more best practices and become renowned for their performance in these areas, but unless best practices are adopted consistently across all the functions of an organisation, as encouraged by business excellence models, it is likely that world class levels of performance will remain out of reach.

‘World class’ can be defined as recognition of organisational performance levels that have been ‘rubber stamped’ by an impartial assessor or identified through benchmarking. Today in the west, this term is applied to any organisation that succeeds in winning a national quality award or national business excellence award. To give some idea of the difficulty in achieving these sort of performance levels it is worth mentioning that in New Zealand, (home of the developers of BPIR.com) only four organisations have been recognised as world class in this way in the 15 years that the NZ Baldrige based national award has been in operation, and in the US out of the hundreds of applicants for the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award up to the year 2008, only 75 have seen ultimate success.

The BPIR team's experience is that whilst there may be at a certain point of time, a world’s best practice for a particular process or area, most organisations are just searching for better practices that they can quickly identify and implement. This viewpoint is supported by Robert Camp  who states, “the point of best practices is to discover and close performance gaps, so defining “best” might be as simple and subjective as what an executive instinctively feels is best, knowing the business and its competition. Adopting this process does not necessarily mean aiming for world-class”.

Who uses best practices?

Organisations that are serious about improving their performance, financial or otherwise, continually search for better business practices. The fastest and easiest way to improve is to compare and learn from other successful organisations (for example, through using a benchmarking approach). To quote a very frequently used idiom among exponents of the use of best practice, “there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel”. Most organisations use or have used best practices at some point, consciously or not. Over the years best practices emerge, and are later surpassed and proved inefficient as the world and the way business is done constantly changes, this is why so many high-performing organisations adopt a culture of continuous improvement.

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What are the common challenges associated with a best practice approach?

The difficulty of incorporating best practices is succinctly put by Robert Camp the acknowledged father of benchmarking. Camp recognises that many rationales and approaches other than benchmarking can be used to identify best practices, but that “there will still be the need to innovatively and creatively implement the best practices”. There are various difficulties involved in the process of improving by learning from best practice, key among these are:

  • Having sufficient knowledge of your own systems and processes to be able to compare against others 
  • Knowing where to find best practices
  • Knowing whether a particular practice is suitable for your situation
  • Adapting the practice to your organisation
  • Finding the time and other resources for the above

A key to tackling the difficulties above is to use a proven process for “finding and implementing best practices that lead to superior performance”, this is why Camp advocates benchmarking.

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How can the BPIR help?

Membership to the BPIR addresses these issues in a number of ways through providing:

  • Information relating to tools and techniques that can be used to understand your own processes and adapt the processes of others.
  • A huge resource of good or best practices as used by organisations from around the world in the form of case studies and survey data.
  • Details of thousands of organisations that have been recognised by awards for excellent performance or by researchers as having excellent practices. These provide a useful starting point in the search for benchmarking partners. Having such a resource on hand helps to reduce the cost/time required when searching for best practices.
  • A monthly BPIR Management Brief  (FREE to non-members in html format on almost 50 topics). This provides best practices, innovative ideas and research data on topics and tools that will help you to stay up-to-date on the latest business trends and practices.

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What is the track record of best practice use?

The potential improvements to be gained from adapting and incorporating proven high performance practices in your organisation can be anything from small continuous steps of improvement, to radical breakthroughs that result in significant positive change. Like anything else that reaps rewards however, much work has to be done and done properly to enable these potential gains. Benefits from the use of best practices can be best understood through reading more on benchmarking.

 
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