If the business you are in involves life and death and safety, then it will be hard to laugh at the words ‘best practice’.

Health care, transport, looking after small people, for example, bring such responsibilities that the need for some place-marker for standards of professionalism and necessary achievement seems obvious. Of course it does.

The question is whether ‘best practice’, which sounds so desirable, is a sufficient place marker: whether the beliefs and assumptions it drags in its wake are ….damaging.  These assumptions include-

  • what works in one place will work in another,
  • everyone operates in an identical way,
  • that proven success in certain contexts means success in all contexts,
  • that following an agreed process trumps responding to an unprecedented situation in a new way.

Its machine thinking, isn it?

Yet when you learn something, and finally master it, has it not been adapted in some way and become your own? Have you not changed, and been changed by, this skill as you (unique you) practice and integrate it into how you operate?

The collision, leading to integration, between you and the skill generates something new.

The meeting of you, and the practice, is a productive meeting that generates outcomes and outputs that were not even imaginable before.

Best practice is about what has happened in the past.

Best practice is about replication.

Where is the possibility, the potential, for exceeding and improving?

When learning a foreign language we soon come across the concept of ‘false friends’ – words from the new language that sound familiar, but have a completely different meaning.

A lot of business speak is like another language. We can usually spot the mendacious or vacuous elements. They make us laugh.

Its these false friends that we should really watch out for.

They trap us in the past.





F80pxtreeinding out what someone really feels about an idea is hard. It really is.

The most useful position to take over satisfaction scores, ‘likes’ and approval ratings is …healthy doubt.  One of the first focus groups I observed during trainee days, years ago, demonstrated this the hard way.

The new-product creative concepts were going down really well with just about everyone. I was loving it.  Phrases such as ‘those will work very well’ and ‘those are very clever’ and ‘yes I think people will really get these’ were scattered through my notes.
(I know, I know – naïve and inexperienced)

The moderator taught me a lot that day.

Prompted by a) brilliant instinct, and b) recognition of the pattern of the responses, he continued,

So we like them. Good.
Theoretically, which of them would you take home?

The answer?  None. Not one.

Approval could safely be expressed for an ‘over-there’ world, for ‘other people’, but personal buy in? Nope.

Personal buy-in is expressed actively, and…personally.

Which brings me to employee surveys.

I keep coming across the weirdest thing.

I am seeing leadership teams inside businesses whoop that scores for the question..
“How likely are you to recommend working here to someone else” have improved year on year, while scratching their heads that scores for a question such as…“ How likely are you to be working here in 18 months time?” have plummeted over the same period.

The recommendation question will tell you absolutely nothing: it’s impersonal.

It’s the thumbs up to the personal that matters.

It’s whether you would ‘take it home’.