Spreading Best Practices – Get It Done, or Get It Right?

By Will Kenny

When you discover a great new idea for your organization — a faster process, a better method, something that leads to higher quality products, enhanced customer service, or lower costs — you can’t wait to get the whole company to use the new approach. The benefits of adopting the new practice throughout your company or institution may be so obvious, and so appealing, to management that suddenly a major “initiative” is launched to implement the practice among all employees as quickly as possible.

As quickly as possible . . . I can’t tell you how many times I and my colleagues have seen companies lose most of the advantages of the new procedure, method, or process in their haste to make it the accepted practice everywhere.

If only management would keep these two observations in mind:

No matter how great the potential return on investment, no matter how striking an improvement the new practice may offer, it is not likely to transform the entire organization overnight. New practices take time to be mastered and to yield their benefits, and rushing to implement them will rarely produce significant immediate returns.The bigger the change, and the more important that change to the success of your organization, the greater the benefit of stepping back and planning a series of steps to bring people along. Getting it done quickly often means not getting it done at all. After the big push, with hastily pulled together materials and poorly thought out explanations, employees aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do, or how to do it.

So they go back to the way things worked before. Employees get used to waiting out these “fads”, knowing that things will return to business as usual before long. The organization invests a lot of time, energy, and resources — probably diverting them from other activities that were already planned — and the return is zilch.

Overreacting to a great new idea, even out of enthusiasm, is just a form of panic. Taking more time up front will save time and money, down the road. But most importantly, it will greatly enhance the impact of your message on your employees, and boost your chances that change will take root, that new practices will be implemented not just in the minds of management, but in behaviors on the front lines.

To spread the next great idea in your organization:

Step back and analyze who needs the new practice, and how it might be adapted to different functions, regions, and environments. Even the best methods and procedures rarely work as “one size fits all” solutions, with no consideration for differing needs and resources.Rather than set an implementation deadline based on when you want the change implemented, develop your communication and training plan as if you had all the time in the world — and then try to compress it a little. An implementation plan based on a sound training design will have much more impact than a training plan based on an arbitrary implementation date.Communicate more often, in smaller chunks. Give employees time to get familiar with the process and the benefits it brings, before expecting everyone to come up to speed. Instead of sending employees to an urgent half-day or all-day session next week, send them to several one-hour sessions over several weeks. Follow up. If employees hear little about the new practice once the “initiative” has been rolled out, they’ll go back to their old ways. Lasting change is much more likely with long term contact. It can be hard to resist the cries to “fix it right now,” but if you prepare the ground, and work through the new best practices step by step, you’re much more likely to produce lasting change.

Will Kenny, owner of Best Training Practices, has spent the last couple of decades
helping organizations reach their audiences with messages that make a difference — whether leading internal audiences to perform better, or awakening external audiences to the benefits of products and services. Will has helped companies large and small, in a wide variety of industries, apply best training practices to spread their best business practices. Visit http://www.besttrainingpractices.com/ for free articles and case studies, and sign up for the free bi-weekly e-zine, The Training Tipsheet.

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