Breaking free from best practice

10 June 2014 / jgelfand

Best practice is the beauty that has been courted by businesses for decades. But in today’s ‘agile’ world, it’s a love affair that’s in its final throes. That’s because our creative knowledge-led economy demands so much more than the comforts of old school best practice. Today, what businesses crave is a creative knowledge-driven approach to steer them towards success, care for their employees and serve their customers. To survive they need to break free from best practice.

Of course, no one ever got fired for choosing best practice frameworks, processes, tools and templates. They provide a sense of security, a warm sense of control, not to mention something to blame should things go wrong.

But in order to create an inspirational organisation that has the chance to attract and retain the people you need to thrive, there are a couple of things you should consider…

Value Flow Efficiency over Resource Efficiency

When choosing an operating strategy for an organisation, most businesses will head straight for one that is resource efficient – effectively creating “efficient islands”. Is it not economically sensible to have our employees busy all the time? Perhaps not. Be aware of your options when making your decision:

By focusing on the flow of value to your customers (creating an “efficient ocean”), you can ensure both spectacular service and provide your people some much needed slack time. Time that can be spent thinking about their work, and how to improve it, or experimenting with new products and services, or simply being available to absorb unexpected variation. If you are going to employ smart people (which I would suggest you do), you may find giving them some breathing space will pay an enormous dividend in the long run.

Value Continuous Improvement over Projects and Initiatives

Improvement does not need to come from projects and workshops. Improvements can come from every single person attending to every single process every single day, launching thousands of tiny changes all aligned to a common vision.

This is not a pipe dream, this is a reality and the Improvement and Coaching Kata which were defined by Mike Rother through his study of Toyota has given every company insight into how to accomplish this.

The approach is deceptively simple – in consideration of a vision, understand where you are and define where you want to be. Then run small scientific experiments using the PDCA cycle (or Deming cycle) while aiming towards the vision. The vision does not need to be attainable, but should act as a true north for everyone in the organisation. Something like this?

“Delighting customers through the innovative delivery of the right feature, at the right price, at the right time, and with the right level of quality”.


Success should not be a lean organisation, or an agile organisation. Success is an effective organisation, one that continuously grows its people and its products in response to an ever increasing and diverse set of market demands. You are rarely remembered for your means of production, but always remembered for what you produce.

Wayne Palmer is a Principal Lean/Agile Consultant at InfoReady.

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