One of the critical components of implementation is communication. When talking about goals, missions, and other plans, information must be disseminated in a clear and concise way. You need allies that are well informed of what the practices are and why they are important to the organization.
Once key personnel are aware of the best practices, then they must be held accountable for implementing it. It is up to the managers to identify which employees will be responsible for executing the practices. There has to be a plan of accountability that is observable and measurable. It is important to keep everyone accountable for their roles.
A way to ensure accountability is to follow up. Nothing is worse than creating a practice and not following up to make sure that it is being implemented. Create a plan to assess and evaluate the success of the practices to not only be sure that they are being executed but also to ensure they are effective.
Best practices evolve and change over time, and an organization must keep their eye on the prize and make sure their practices are truly the best and up to date. Organizations need to develop a strategy and specific dates for follow-up to ensure that it occurs.
Here are eight steps to developing best practices
1. Do your homework
What other companies in your industry come to mind when considering best practices? Which ones outside your industry personify best practices? Do research to determine what they do in areas such as hiring, customer service, or anything else that catches your attention. You can do Google searches, read trade magazines, or even ask others in your business whom they respect as a business with solid best practices. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you can follow the paths of authors and adapt what they have done within your organization.
2. Share your information
As mentioned earlier, once you determine what practice you want to begin implementing within your organization, be sure that you are clearly sharing it with key personnel in a clear and concise manner. Emphasize why the best practices matter and how it will benefit them, the organization, and your customers. Send out emails and schedule meetings. Try not to implement too much at once. Prepare your employees and roll out the changes slow enough for people to adapt. This is a critical step; people can only consume what they can digest, so implement changes in small portions.
3. Define your metrics
Be sure that when you develop your practices, they have measurable metrics for accountability and as an indicator of success. You may have to have a consulting company create these for you. The important thing is that whatever you do, it is measurable. Suppose for instance, that you want to cut the wait time for customers connecting with customer service. A clear best practice would reduce wait time to 5 minutes. If the current average wait time is 7 minutes, then you want to reduce it by 2 minutes. That is measurable. To just say you want customers to wait less time on the phone is not a clear and measurable metric.
4. Manage change
Change is difficult for most people. They often resist it, so be prepared for it, and have a strategy to manage it. Most people resist change. Make sure you have a plan in place to deal with people’s fears. This plan should not only look internally but should also look at the resistance to change of your stakeholders and customers. Again there are consulting companies that specialize in change. They can create a forecast for your company about how your employees will deal with change and can mitigate problems before they start with strategic intervention.
5. Modify and customize for your business
When considering the best practice, especially one that may be outside your industry, take the time to modify it to work within your organization. Ask for feedback and suggestions (this may be a best practice in itself). Be open and be willing to take risks.
6. Involve everyone
Be sure everyone understands what you are implementing, that they know their role, and that they have bought in. Once again, be open to feedback and follow up with everyone.
7. Align business and customer needs
Sometimes, it may be necessary to involve another company to help you develop and implement new best practice strategies. Never forget that you know your business best and advocate when you need to. If you do not feel a particular best practice aligns with your company, and the mission, then it may not be the right one. You may need to reject or modify it.
8. Evaluate and refine
Keep in mind best practices sometimes need modification or replacement. The most successful businesses evolve, are prepared for those changes, and are consistently adjusting and aligning their strategy to external and internal changes.
Gerald Leonard, PfMP, PMP, MCTS, CQIA, ITIL, COBIT, is the CEO of Principles of Execution (PofE), a Certified Minority Business Enterprise, Strategic Project Portfolio Management and Culture Change consulting practice with over 20 years of experience working with Federal and State Governments and large multinational corporations. He works with organizations and professionals who want to develop a culture that works, leveraging agile strategies to do more with less and improve your bottom line results. Gerald is the author of “Culture Is The Bass: 7 Principles for Developing A Culture That Works” and an upcoming book, “Symphonic Culture: Unify, Strategize, and Execute Collectively for Optimum Results.” Gerald writes about strategic portfolio management and organizational culture change.