When it comes to “best practices,” what is learned and tested in peer learning groups is much more relevant to the participants’ organization than anything traditional training can offer. Let me explain my rationale.
A best practice is “a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things.” (Wikipedia)
In other words, there is an assumption that there is a standard way for handling, as an example, difficult employee behaviors. These “best practices” are drawn from the experience of successful companies. An additional assumption is that, if they are effective in one company, they will work just as well in any other company- and they should be used.
But companies, even companies in the same industry or of the same size, are very different. They vary in terms of history, mission, vision, organizational culture, management style, number of employees, types of positions, nature of services, geographic locations, etc.
When outside trainers or consultants are brought into a company to teach “best practices,” these practices are frequently drawn from companies that may not have any similarity to that of the participants’ companies. As a result, the participants are forced to try to interpret and reframe what they’ve learned so it will work within their organization. They are often unsuccessful because these theoretical “best practices” simply aren’t relevant or operational within the participants’ company. But they don’t realize this until they get back to their company and try to use them.
In the alternative, “best practices” that are home-grown, within the context and culture of an organization, are much more relevant and effective. This is where peer learning groups excel at enabling the participants to tailor and test practices to meet the needs of their organizations.
Managers from the same organization who share a current management challenge come together to learn how to address it. They review and select potential practices to handle that challenge, keeping in mind the culture and management style of their organization. Then they experiment with the practices for a month to determine which will work best in their workplace.
The members of the peer learning groups generate “best practices” specific to their organization. These home-grown “best” practices are more useful and appropriate than the general and theoretical “best practices” taught by outside trainers or consultants.
Question: Have you ever been taught a “best practice” that didn’t work in your organization?
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