Industry best practices are something we all want to know, but like the Pirate’s Code described in Pirates of the Caribbean, they are “more of a guideline than an actual set of rules.”
Best practices are sometimes helpful to use as a starting point when in the creating process. But a best practice is a best practice only until it’s replaced by an even better practice. “Any man who falls behind is left behind.” The best practices of the industry today will be old news tomorrow. However, though practices may change, striving for operational excellence is a constant pursuit.
It’s all about context. Adopting best practices involves making a decision or implementing a new strategy today because someone made a similar decision in the past. But, because best practices revolve around context, and context may change from past to present or from company to company, there are inherent problems with adopting someone else’s best practice. We must ask questions to avoid flaws in practices.
“How similar should my situation be to the one that created the best practice?”
“How confident can we be that what worked in the past will work for us?”
“Is this still considered the best solution?”
Best practices are answers to commonly asked questions. As Credit and Collections consultants, we are often asked our advice on the best strategies, processes and products. We can use knowledge of what has worked for other people to help answer these questions. However, the best solution needs to be based upon the context and unique environment for which the solution will be used.
Ships often sink when best practices are blindly followed. What worked in one situation may not work in another. Each company has different challenges, resources, budgets, problems, strengths, operational styles, technology and expectations that all must be taken into account.
Market leaders don’t just adopt best practices- they create, redefine and refine them. That’s why best practices “are more of a guideline than an actual set of rules.”