Quick and Dirty Business Best Practices Primer

This document is designed to quickly explain best practices, their importance to an organization and the challenges involved in establishing and maintaining them. Best practices are defined as the best way to perform various tasks in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

Driving Forces – There are specific driving forces that create both the need for and the existence of best practices. The three main guiding forces for best practices are:

1. Customer Desire
2. Business Need (inclusive of regulations and laws dictated by external sources such as government agencies)
3. Availability or Limitations of: Resources (time, money, staffing) and Technology (available or obtainable)

These are ordered by the greatest impact to achieving the ultimate goal, first focus being on the customer, because the customer ensures business longevity. Business need is the second driving force, because profitability ensures business viability. Only after these two have been used to define best practices should the availability or limitations be applied.

Historically best practices have been driven from the back to the front, focusing on availability and/or limitations first, business need second and the customer need last, if at all. Additionally, organizations that are national or global develop regional best practices that evolve spontaneously and may be in direct conflict with each other.

Importance – Unilateral best practices for specific tasks are important to an organization because they:

�· ensure consistent customer experience
�· ensure consistent employee experience
�· streamline training and information delivery
�· make it possible for employees to easily move within the organization
�· make performance measurements consistent across the organization
�· reduce cost due to all of the above (customer retention, reduced turnover, leveraged staffing, cost effective training and information delivery)

First Imperative – The first imperative in the approach to best practices must begin with real customer information (information directly from the customer, not assumptions of associates, employees or management). This may require surveys, focus groups or other means of real time/real world data collection from the customer’s perspective.

Challenges – The following are items/issues that may create challenges to developing best practices:

�· work pressures (lack of time, staffing)
�· existing perceptions (believing we already know)
Ã?· “artifacts of the past” (we’ve always done it that way)
�· existing measurements (measurements designed to support the organization, not necessarily to serve the customer or measurements in direct conflict with the customer need)
�· cultural differences (from region to region, office to office)
�· buy-in (acceptance from all involved, even if there is disagreement at the start, once the decision is made everyone will do it)

Identifying and implementing best practices offers challenges and can be time consuming. However, once accomplished best practices offer a competitive edge to the organization. Don’t forget to periodically revisit existing best practices. Today’s business environment is in a constant state of flux. Don’t limit your organization’s ability to change and adapt by writing best practices in stone. Make it possible for the company to acquire knowledge about the changing customer and vendor environment directly from the “front lines” of operation. Cut the red tape and the hierarchy out of reporting best practice effectiveness or the lack thereof. Establish a quick and easy way for any employee to drop a line to the keepers of the Best Practice when they see a need for change.

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