It might sound paradoxical or even heretical to challenge the concept of best practice, but issues can arise when it becomes more of a ritual or a habit than an intelligently creative and protective tool.

A recurring theme among teams that get stuck and organisations that have started to stagnate is the occurrence of unintentional and often unconscious ‘calcification’. Just like the build-up of lime scale in hard water areas, layers of ‘best practice’ (processes and behaviours) can become a collection of habitual routines clogging up the system. It’s not a criticism: what we see time and again is that most of this clog comes from the innocent inheritance and adoption of practices from others/elsewhere and/or earlier times.

Thinking about best practice in your organisation – the standard operating procedures (both formal and informal) – how many of your people understand not just what to do but why it’s done that way? Oftentimes we hear ‘because this is what the most successful organisations do’ or ‘to ensure the highest standards are met’ and these statements might be true, but when the process has become detached from the original wisdom and the intentions behind the initial inspiration, then so-called best practice can be more of a hindrance than a help.

Sometimes the rationale looks both to be fully understood and fundamentally true. As an example: ‘we structure our leadership meetings in this way because it’s best practice to…’. Is it? Who says? Is it definitely true for you and your team, or have you just been told it is? Could it also be true that the cause of the incredibly effective meetings, on which today’s best practice was originally modelled, actually had very little to do with the format of the agenda and the observable factors credited in post-analysis and instead everything to do with the mindsets, presence and fresh-in-the-moment inspiration within them. Or put another way: however compelling they might be, is it possible that we’re just looking at symptoms, whilst blind to the underlying cause? 

The slowing down of organisational progress isn’t inevitable with increasing size, but the distance from original intention usually is. It is our experience that the solution to the ‘computer says no’ incidents, to the ‘customer-focus’ initiatives that are so frequently anything but, or the new ways of ‘agile working’ that can rather ironically lead to chaos and standstill, is to be found in basic physics: remove the clog and you’ll increase the flow. Whilst the way it’s applied will vary, our experience is that the metaphorical descaler is always a redirection of focus back to the ‘why’.

    If this resonates with you, perhaps we can help? The Vibrant Company works with leaders and their teams to liberate them from complexity, conflict and overwhelm by showing them how to access their peak resourcefulness, clarity and inspiration and look for new and better possibilities beyond their current reality.

    If this blog post has made you curious, get in touch.

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