Why Common Practice is Not Best (or Better) Practice!

22 December 2020 by
Why Common Practice is Not Best (or Better) Practice!
Expertivity Technologies , Alex McDonnell

Diffusion of Innovations

In speaking to managers in service and knowledge work organisations, I'm often told that "we already employ industry best practices" but often find that what they really mean is "we employ industry common practices" which is not the same thing. In fact, if you are employing industry common practices, by definition, you can't be employing best (I prefer to say better) practices unless you are in the 16% (approximately) minority of managers who are genuinely exploring and employing better management practices.

In the early 1930's, Everett Rogers discovered that technology innovations don't necessarily diffuse quickly and uniformly throughout a given population, in his case farming, regardless of the apparent benefits the new technology brings. His diffusion of innovations model suggested that innovations diffuse according to a predictable pattern from early adopters who are typically 2.5% of the relevant population through to the 16% laggards who remain stubbornly wedded to their old habits.

Remember, as innovations diffuse from left to right in Everetts model above, new innovations are entering from the left, ready to displace those that have become common practice. Often however, these new innovations are held up by the stubborn resistance of managers to explore these new organizational innovations.

A mistake that's often made is to confine our thinking of "technology" as only those of Information Technology. By far the more important technology is that of management technology as without it, other technologies remain confined to their laboratories of birth or even worse, are deployed in a fashion that disimproves organisational performance. Perhaps the most recent example of this is the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPS) to automate steps in a process that should be eliminated and not automated.

On the other hand, powerful new management technologies have yet to be adopted by a significant proportion of the management population, the most powerful of which is the science that underpins organisational complexity and the associated disciplines required to harness and influence it to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiencies in our organisations, whether they be in the private or public sectors.

Unfortunately it has been the case that innovations in management practices have been amongst the least prolific of the technologies to develop and diffuse and as such are holding our modern organisations back and limiting the impact of our emerging digital technologies as witnessed by the deteriorating effectiveness and efficiency of our large service and knowledge work organisations.

OECD productivity report 2019 showing upgrading of technical and management skills as being the most influential on productivity

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Why Common Practice is Not Best (or Better) Practice!
Expertivity Technologies , Alex McDonnell 22 December 2020
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