Improve Performance By Adapting 'Promising Practices'

“What might be right for you, might not be right for some” (Diffr'nt Strokes . . .)

Public sector managers are facing the twin challenges of increasing demand for services and limited or diminishing resources to meet that demand. Those seeking to improve efficiency and effectiveness often pursue 'best practice' examples from other organizations.

This is a worthwhile objective; however, I prefer the term 'promising practices' over 'best practices', for a couple reasons:

  1. It doesn't have to be 'best', just 'better' (and defining 'better' will take some work – see below);

  2. The term 'promising practice' implies more than just a better methodology or technology, it signifies that the practice is applicable to your work environment and will yield tangible benefit to your organization.

And, notice I used the term 'adapt' rather than 'adopt'. It will rarely be as simple as finding a whiz-bang solution built by someone else, and parachuting it into your organisation. Success will require applying the skills, judgment and experience of your people most familiar with the processes to be changed.

But before you start the quest for promising practices, you need to know both the strengths and weaknesses of your current business processes. You need to know what to retain, and what can be changed. And you need criteria to establish what 'better' means in the context of your business environment.

Figuring this out may require mapping your business processes – i.e. establishing 'trigger and endpoint', tasks and ownership, cycle-times and work-times, and environmental factors such as legislation, technology, and organizational structure - and consulting with stakeholders and subject matter experts to round out your picture of what's going on now, and what's possible to achieve.

And like any project, your initiative needs a plan, a timeline and resources. This might include internal resources – your team – as well as budget dollars to aid information-gathering or to hire outside support.

Any change initiative also needs a Communications Strategy to maintain project direction, to inform and solicit feedback from stakeholders, and to ensure buy-in from those most affected by the project.

There's a saying I may have mentioned before that sums it up: “Change is GOOD – you go first”! Your people will understandably have concerns about how this will affect them. You need to deal with this by proactive and repeated messaging, and by responding promptly to issues and concerns.

With all that in place, it's time to actually seek out and then apply the business practices that best suit you – next issue.

See also:

Process improvement in the public sector

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