Elements of Best Practice

By: Eric Chow,

The Elements of Best Practice Activity is about identifying, understanding, and then applying the “best practices” for an action, but before we go into how exactly that is done, it is important to explain what a Best Practice is.

Oxford defines a “best practice” as “commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.” Put simply, the best way to do something, simply because of the results, and using such strategies to improve performance.

Knowing the best practices for the activities frequently relevant in an individual’s life, or an organization’s routine, helps to bring about superior results. 

Superior results can be, but are not limited to: doing more in less time, reduced costs or energy or effort expended, avoiding common mistakes, improved performance or a better end product, and more! Everyone wants to do better, and identifying the best practices helps to avoid costly and time-consuming efforts, and makes it easier to duplicate and teach to newcoming members on a team.

Of course, that begets the question – how do we identify these Best Practices?


Identifying Best Practices

According to the Encyclopedia of Small Business, at referenceforbusiness.com, one way of finding best practices is by looking to firms with a known reputation. 

“For example, Federal Express is often cited as having best practices among competitors in the expedited small package industry for their on-time delivery and package tracking services. Microsoft, the computer software developer, is cited as being innovative and creative, while the L.L. Bean outdoor products and clothing company is frequently lauded for their customer service practices and return policy guarantees.”

The Encyclopedia also suggests that learning about best practices does not have to be within key industry, often, superior methods can be found in companies outside of the scope of a particular firm. Researching and observing companies in different settings to learn better ways to continuously improve may be worthwhile. 

Another way is by looking at organizations and websites that document the best practices, like the Best Manufacturing Practices website, which focuses on identifying and documenting best practices and sharing them across industry. Looking at winners of certain awards, such as the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, can also be beneficial. Studying what such awards or websites look at can be helpful in identifying companies to observe.


The Balance Small Business, part of the Dotdash Publishing Family, writes in an article in 2018 a step-by-step process for Best Practices.

  1. Identify one business process or service to improve. (Product delivery)
  2. Look for one metric to measure. (Late Shipment %)
  3. Find competitors and companies within your industry and outside your industry. (FedEx)
  4. Collect information on the successful, best practices of other companies. (FedEx spoke and hub system)
  5. Modify the best practice for your situation. (Have one retail store per city act as central hub for shipments.)
  6. Implement the process then measure the results.

Notice how this process also suggests looking within and out of industry, because knowledge can be found anywhere, this is again suggested. Step 5 stresses an important part of that however. The exact strategies applied in another company, particularly one outside of industry, has to be modified for the different situation. Having a metric to compare before and after, is also a very important step in order to see the effect of a strategy implementation.


With regards to the metrics of measurement, the David Consulting Group says that collecting quantitative data on the methodology and the process, and analyzing the results presents measured performance and capability profiles. Comparing the actual performance with the capability reveals opportunities for improvement, which can then be an opportunity to find best practices.

Info Entrepreneurs, from the Chamber of Commerce Metropolitan Montreal, calls such metrics, benchmarks. Through benchmarking, it becomes possible to compare your business with other successful businesses to highlight areas of improvement. To identify benchmarks,

  • Identify standards: independent bodies often establish fixed standards for industry and activities that can be used as benchmarks 
  • Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): measure progress in achieving business objectives across a range of activities (e.g. sales volume, profitability, turnover, etc.)
  • Communicating with different groups in a company: production staff will be aware of inefficient production processes, customer service staff will know common complaints, customer service managers will see local market demand shifts, etc. 

The key is to encourage innovation and improvement. Leaders have to look to innovate, and they have to allow employees to make suggestions for how that can be done. Constantly pushing to be better not only allows for Best Practices, but in general creates the culture of a company that continues to grow.


The Chief Learning Officer Magazine documents the strategies of “three learning leaders” for finding best practices.

  • Work your network: contact the best people you know, ask what they’re doing is similar, and how they address certain issues. What are their suggestions? Who would they talk to?
  • Become embedded: the high performers are those deeply engaged and learning about the relevant skills and topics. This can include attending events, reading journals, participating in discussions, and getting to know colleagues.
  • Look to the big players: the big organizations have all the resources, which provides a solid benchmark and gets you closer to the exemplars of industry. But it’s the small firms that are more creative and resourceful and explorative. 
  • Build boardroom credibility: draw on research and industry-specific journal articles. Read what your superiors might read.
  • Adapt, don’t adopt: do not just take the strategies and apply them. Adapt them to the particular situation and environment.

To summarize the key points of all these suggestions, looking for best practices is about identifying metrics of measurement (or benchmarks), identifying the best practices of other companies and individuals in and out of industry, adapting them to the new situation and environment, and then using the metrics to see the result of the newly applied practice.

Identifying Best Practices – The BeckSearch way these ideas are well-founded to identify the right strategies. With so many organizations that can be looked at, and each one can lead to new ideas that produce better results. However, looking at other organizations brings about several challenges. It can be difficult because there are so many of them. The time it takes to choose and then identify the relevant strategies may not be worth it, especially without a clear method of how to find the best practices, and then adapt them to the particular organization or individual’s context.

Furthermore, what about organizations that wish to innovate and bring about change? Following the conventional best practices won’t do, because they want to do better!

What about applying the concept of best practices to academic settings? Students and researchers can benefit greatly from understanding best practices in studying, researching, analyzing, critically thinking, etc. How does it apply to specific industries? How does it apply to relationships with people?

Is there a way to create and implement a process that generates the best practices that a team is already using?

References:

Introduction
https://www.thatcompany.com/what-are-best-practices-and-why-are-they-important


Best Practices Suggestions –
https://www.referenceforbusiness.com/small/A-Bo/Best-Practices.html

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/small-business-best-practice-benchmarking-2951166

https://www.methodsandtools.com/archive/archive.php?id=15

https://www.infoentrepreneurs.org/en/guides/best-practice/

https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2013/09/20/how-to-find-best-practices/

The Problem with Best Practices –
https://medium.com/@jayacunzo/finding-best-practices-isnt-the-goal-finding-the-best-approach-for-you-is-df90a5854fd5

The Active Peers at BeckSearch Approach to Best Practices –
https://www.activepeers.com/courses/best-practice/