Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beyond Scientific Management and traditional Best Practices

Most businesses apply the elements of the scientific management process without question even though it was designed to manage production assembly lines. Unfortunately, many managers view their work as just that, managing assembly lines producing particular results or outputs. These managers will do benchmarking and seek out Best Practices to improve their benchmarks. Even if you are managing an actual assembly line, Best Practices alone may not be enough to improve performance.
We now know that traditional Best Practices are too specific, even if they are generalized processes. They usually describe general positive attributes of a particular process and specific processes that produce a specific positive outcome. Best Practices in the past, did not address the issues outside of the practice or process.
A key factor in the success of a business process and the business in general is the organization itself. That is, the organization the carries out the Best Practice. There are attributes to the organization that makes the Best Practice work. It could be the structure of the organization or the specific skills of the people in the organization. When implementing Best Practices, the organization has two options. Either change it's qualities to match that from where the Best Practice came from or modify the Best Practice itself to match the capabilities of the organization. Changing the organization has it's own challenges and modifying the Best Practice may risk losing the quality that made the practice what it is. Often a bit of both is required and impacts the effectiveness of the Best Practices to a business.
The success of Best Practices is not just the practice or process itself but is also the result of the conditions surrounding the Best Practice itself. Two critical conditions are supporting processes and availability of resources. Supporting processes are processes that happens before or in tandem to the Best Practice. These processes created the starting point or the state where the Best Practice begins. They can also be triggered by the Best Practice itself and may provide components or create conditions of other parts of the Best Practice. Another important condition is how much and what resources does the Best Practice require. Without these conditions the Best Practice will not live up to it's expectation.
All these are not captured by Best Practices in the past or sometimes ignored in modern Best Practices. Thus we have a condition where Best Practices are very specific and brief or very general and vague. Managers are left to work out or guess what resources and processes are required to make the Best Practice successful. They will have to look at their own organizations and consider what is missing or needs to change to make the Best Practice work. Some Best Practices work together and depend on each other. Removing one will affect the other. These translate into additional cost. Businesses may decide that the cost of Best Practices is not worth the gain.
The Best Practices concept is still used today. Specific best practices can be applied effectively within the specific industries it was created in. However, managers need to look beyond Best Practices to gain a better tool to make their work easier. One tool is the Frameworks approach. A framework not only captures the best practices but also the attributes of successful or desired organizations. It captures the relationship of processes and defines the what needs to transpire between them. It provides managers with ways of improving processes continually, instead of changing everything at once. The frameworks approach covers also maintaining the quality and improving the results. This provides managers with both specific tools and the flexibility to apply them.
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