Why chase Best Practice?

I worked with a number of clients in a previous vendor life who were struggling to “do ITIL” because they felt (or had been told) they had to. There was little or no funding, often no project. And why? Because there was no business case. I’m a business case specialist. If there are good solid numbers with $$ before them, projects get up. They get attention and resources. They happen. We’ll talk about the ROI of ITIL another day. For now let’s focus on those poor people battling away to get something done. And let’s think of the company whose resources are being drawn off and distracted … nay, wasted on misguided attempts to achieve Best Practice just because.

As Mark Di Somma says:

focused and achieved excellence is powerful, whereas striving for excellence everywhere (and not achieving it anywhere) is much less competitive. Better to be unbreakable everywhere and unbeatable in selected places than to attempt to be unbeatable everywhere, and not get there!

Di Somma has also said “World class best practice looks like everyone else”. Best is not about what everyone else does.

It is not ITIL I’m taking a tilt at here so much as the uncritical acceptance of Best Practice as the only acceptable standard for everything. Take a look at Core Practice. I quote:

Not everyone can afford or wants best practice. We fully support best practices for those organisations that have the commitment and resources and reason to adopt best practice. For those who do not, something more pragmatic is required... For these organisations (e.g. small businesses, start-ups, the cash-strapped) there is Core Practice. “If you do nothing else, do these things.”

We call it CoPr, pronounced "copper". Why copper? Well, because that is how the acronym sounds, obviously. But also because it isn't gold. You want the gold version? There are plenty of organisations who will sell you the gold version. This is the copper version. It is nearly as pretty and has all the same properties (near enough), but for a lot less cost.

Best Practice has become something of a sacred cow in business. It is taken as a given that organisations want to achieve best practice in everything they do and an organisation that doesn't is somehow less worthy than those that do. This should not be the case. Pursuing Best Practice is a strategic decision, which should be taken when there is an agreed ROI (tangible or intangible) for the resource investment required to get there…

We believe the world is ready for Core Practice: the strategic decision to minimise cost in a discipline of the enterprise by implementing practices sufficient to (a) meet obligations and (b) to make processes work to a standard sufficient that risk (to the organisation and to people in its care) is reduced to some acceptable level.

Never mind TQM and Continuous Incremental Improvement: sometimes it's OK to “do it'll-do”, to stop at good enough.

[BTW, they make it sound like they are selling something ("but for a lot less cost"). They aren't. CoPr is a free, open source, volunteer thingy. It is focused on small business for now, so it may not be the "Easy ITIL" that so many are seeking, sorry.].

As I said in an earlier blog entry, do ITIL (or any "best practice") when there is a business case for it. When there isn’t, don’t flog yourself and don’t weaken your organisation.

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