Best practice may not always be best policy

As IT leaders, we are positively drowned in best practice. Armies of academics, researchers and gurus publish, present and patter...

As IT leaders, we are positively drowned in best practice. Armies of academics, researchers and gurus publish, present and patter on about it. But what does it mean? And does it have a role in meeting the challenges of the new business age?

David Taylor

Inside track

To me, best practice means applying to your own organisation what works across a large number of others. With so many universal truths around (the same challenges that face every company) this approach has a role to play, but, if you want to stand out from the crowd, only a limited one - because the future is not what it was.

Doing the same as everyone else is no longer enough - it is only by doing something different, that you will move ahead, and it is only leaders, teams and companies that move ahead, that will survive and thrive.

There is an alternative to best practice, which will enable you to soar ahead of the majority of other directors, without huge risk-taking. It is called modelling.

The term originates in the world of neuro-linguistic programming, the science of human excellence developed by Richard Bandler. Modelling means seeking out the very best. Finding someone, or an organisation, that has achieved what you wish to achieve, and doing what they did.

In IT terms we are talking about modelling excellence, seeking out those who are succeeding.

The cynics may call this cheating, or copying, or the opposite of free thinking, but nothing could be further from the truth. We all look for teachers and coaches in human and corporate excellence. We all seek to learn from the masters.

Those that do it also know that simply following the same recipe as others is not enough, it must be adapted to your own organisation's specific challenges and goals. There is still some risk, and a need for bravery. Modelling will provide the map and compass. You still have to lead the way.

The key difference between best practice and modelling is the difference between the many and the few. Those that model the very best are still moving away from the general masses - rather than doing what works in every company. Modelling is about highlighting and mimicking the exceptional.

How do you model? Find a person, a company or a team that has achieved what you want to achieve, that is living the reality of your dreams. You can find these people through conferences, award ceremonies and simple networking. Then seek to understand how they did what they did - be open with them about your motives - modelling is the sincerest form of flattery.

Then do what they did, constantly adjusting your actions according to the results you achieve.

Modelling is the fastest, most effective and powerful way to achieve anything, and when everyone is doing it, it will become best practice. Then it is time to move on, and once again seek out another champion to model. Or, more likely, by now thinking and acting like the first exemplar you modelled, you will become a true pioneer, and a role model for others.

David Taylor's Inside Track. A provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now. The book is the latest in the Computer Weekly Professional Series, published by ButterworthHeinemann: 01865-888180

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