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Geerten’s Favourite Workshop
January 25, 2024
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January 30, 2024
two guys yelling at each other
Geerten’s Favourite Workshop
January 25, 2024
Three Tips to Improve your Personal Productivity
January 30, 2024
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Process Improvement or Best Practice Implementation?

You want to improve your organisations’ competitiveness: provide better quality, better lead times or delivery performance, lower prices, or offer innovations to the customer. What action will you take to improve your internal capability to increase competitiveness? Will you go down the process improvement pathway, or will you follow the best practice implementation route?

Let’s first understand the terms, the overlap, and the differences before we answer this question. Both methods involve study or learning for improvement. In the case of process improvement, you study your internal processes. In the case of best practice implementation, it’s external: you study what the sustained titans of industry do well to see what you can adapt/adopt for your organisation.

 

 

A perceived weakness of the best practice implementation is its apparent rigidity due to an over emphasis on imitation: “Do what Toyota/GE/Amazon does!” This is a lazy interpretation of the methodology. Each best practice needs to be interpreted for the context and benefits of the organisation. In fact, when we lift this thinking to a new level, the apparent ‘weakness’ is actually the key to competitive advantage. If you can demonstrate value, efficiency and productivity from the implementation of a best practice that is not traditionally associated with your sector, you have the first-mover advantage which will increase your competitiveness significantly. The best example we can think of is introducing the best practice concept of ‘Flow’ in Healthcare. By no longer optimising the schedule of work around the medical practitioners’ availability, but by flowing the patient through a series of connected medical procedures in separate healthcare functions, the patient outcomes improved significantly, the treatment times and effort reduced, and the total cost of healthcare was reduced significantly too. Nikolas Modig describes some great examples in his Ted Talk.

Other limitations of best practice implementation can be stagnation or the lack of willingness to deviate from the best practice to experiment or innovate, and for mature industries with already widely adopted best practices, a ‘me-too’ approach will only lift your organisation to the industry average performance.

A perceived weakness of business process improvement is the lack of sustained improvement or that the point-solutions do not deliver the expected value due to other, unidentified constraints. A process improvement solution therefore always needs to be tested for side-effects, and embedded with checks and controls.

But the biggest limitation of both business process improvement and best practice implementation is the buy-in for, and the adoption of, the new methods, tasks and behaviours by the staff. Humans are very capable of resisting change, and only a solid (best practice) approach to introducing and embedding change in an organisation will lead to sustained positive outcomes.

Both approaches are – paradoxically – both free and costly. You do not have to invest capital or assign significant operational costs to complete this work, yet you have to prioritise your staff time for this activitity. And we all know management time is often the most expensive resource we have in our organisations.

So, back to our question: Will you go down the process improvement pathway, or will you follow the best practice implementation route? As you will have gathered, this is not an ‘either/or’ answer, but a ‘both/and’ one. A hybrid approach, where the operational management framework is (re)defined by the deployment of best practices, coupled with process analysis and improvement activity that is included in and embedded by the framework. A hybrid approach allows for the customisation of processes while leveraging valuable insights from established best practices, striking a balance between flexibility and efficiency.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People