5 Tips for Propagating Best Practices

In its December 1997 issue, The Systems Thinker newsletter featured an article entitled "Putting Best Practices into Practice". Its authors, Charles Parry, Marilyn Darling and Stever Robbins discuss how sharing best practices can be an important driver for success within an organization. The article focuses on five principles for sharing and implementing best practices. Some 12 years later, these principles are still applicable so I thought it might be a good idea to share them again. If you are spearheading change within your organization or sponsoring the implementation of a new framework, methodology or set of best practices, keep these things in mind:

State your business case.  People want to know "what's in it for me?" (WIIFM). You must articulate how the best practice supports business goals. When people in different parts of the organization understand how a best practice supports clear business goals, they can actively collaborate to help it spread.

Adapt the practice to fit local conditions. There's no one size fits all solution to today's business, managerial and technical challenges, so you may need to tailor the practice to meet the unique needs of or local conditions in an organization. What's important is that you allocate time for learning from mistakes, adapting, and internalizing new behaviors. 

Understand how your practice really works. Team dynamics and individual contributions can play an important role in the adoption of best practices. A team that has worked together successfully in the past will require less of a focus on team communications as would a newly formed team. It is important to recognize and manage these factors throughout the transition.

Make sure your organization supports collaboration. Nothing can derail organizational change quicker than competing reward systems. If the company rewards innovation over collaboration, you'll have a tough job on your hands. Be sure to assess which systems and structures support or block collaboration within your organization.

Don't allow gems to get lost in the computer.  Simply stated, don't allow technology decisions (e.g., which database should be used to store the best practices) to distract people from the task at hand. Technology should be used to facilitate retrieval of best practices in a manner that is convenient and efficient for the people that need to use them.

If you've had success propogating best practices, take a minute and share your thoughts.