Best Practices

What defines IT best practices and

how do you know when you've got them?

I see, I forget.

I hear,

I remember.

I do,

I understand.

- Chinese Proverbs


Here's a hint: Is your company as profitable as you'd like it to be? If not, you might want to do a self-check and rachet up your performance.

I'd never given much thought to best practices early in my career. Mostly it just seemed to me that if you worked smart, were efficient, did effective things and avoided stupid things, the rest just took care of itself. Unfortunately, at a few places, I found this attitude did not win friends and influence people. In fact, my coworkers really didn't appreciate it much when a young smart-aleck 20-something tried to tell them how to do their job better. The fact that I had a degree in psychology and a passion for efficiency just didn't seem to win them over.

But things do change. I'm doing work with one company that has committed almost a million dollars to a 6 month effort to build best practices into their information technology department. And this is a pretty small commitment. Other companies have devoted as much as $50 million over 2-3 years to rebuild their companies to align with ITIL best practices.

That's a lot of money. Is it worth it?

There was a book written a few years back called "In Search of Excellence." The authors had worked for McKinsey, one of the best management consulting firms in the world. They had done extensive research to identify what made some of the greatest, most profitable companies that way. You might call it a early study on "Best Practices." One of the companies they identified was Hewlett Packard. And I had the privilege of doing some work at HP.

While I was at HP, I learned a lot about best practices culture. The best part was that no one was annoyed when I suggested better ways of doing their work. The usual reaction was more like "You think that would work better? Let's give it a try."

You see, the single most important thing about being a best practices company is to recognize that you aren't perfect. A best practices company is not afraid to change if someone suggests a better way. The corporate culture recognizes and accepts the occassional failure that comes with experimentation. If you learn from mistakes, and don't repeat them, your mistakes can make you stronger.

But the second most important thing is to manage that change rather let it become chaos. That is why change management is a crucial discipline to any best practices company. More on that in a later article.