A Best Practice is, by definition, a method or technique or process that is superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means. In the business world, Best Practices are developed to help us achieve and maintain high quality, eventually enabling us to achieve excellence. So, at least from this perspective, a positive and a recommendable approach in any business, in any industry.
Some are very much in favor of Best Practice, because of the positive impact they feel it can have on the business.
Others have the opposite opinion and feel Best Practice rules bring no good to anyone. Some even feel this is a vote of no confidence regarding their professional expertise or their Firm´s own Best Practice.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All “true” top professionals, in any industry, understand that keeping an open mind and listening to others is a strength, not a weakness. Not listening might be one.
I, the writer of this article, look at Best Practice from a top-level Executive Search Researcher point of view. In an Executive Search process, there are always three parties involved:
The Hiring Company
Look at any international major market leader company in the world, and you will find that it has a Company Best Practice. Look closer; you will find that this also includes a well thought out Best Practice as how to recruit senior top-level executives.
The Executive Search Firm
Look at any international high-end Executive Search Firm, and you will find a well thought out Best Practice that concerns everything that happens in the Executive Search Process, from A to Z. When you want to evaluate an Executive Search Firm, check this out.
We do not talk about Candidate Best Practice, but that does not mean it does not exist. It just has another name. It is called Career Planning. Though perhaps not by definition, exactly the same, an active and well thought out Career Planning is, in my mind, similar to the concept of Best Practice. In Career Planning you try to figure out which is the best way to proceed on your career path, how to write your CV, how to contact a Head Hunter, how to behave in an interview, how to check out you future potential employer etc. So, I here take the liberty of using the expression Candidate Best practice.
Best Practice is above all a strategic tool. It does not tell us exactly what to do in every single moment, every single situation, every single working day. It is a framework, a helping guide if you like, that supports us in our work, but leaves room for personal decision making based on the situation at hand.
Short term: To support you in your daily work as a look up when needed, to get ideas in your work or talking points, when, e.g. meeting Head Hunters, Clients and Candidates. At a minimum, to give you a direction.
Long term: When developing your work processes, a Best Practice guidebook + doing the job is a combination with better returns than just learning be doing + it helps to create a Best Practice mindset in your Firm.
Compare a Best Practice guidebook to traffic rules. We all follow them, not just because the law says so, but because we know it is the best way. That said, if we drive from A to B a 1 000 times, we always drive a little differently, due to the road condition, due to the weather, due to the rush hour, due to us sleeping badly last night and for a thousand other reasons. So, even if we pay attention to following the traffic rules, there is room for individual decision making based on the situation at hand.
A Best Practice guidebook is also a tool helping us to recognise the change, what’s coming behind the horizon, and introducing new ways of thinking.
A Company with a documented Best Practice everyone is committed to, will, in the long run, always outperform a company not having these things.
I feel the concept of Best Practice has a worse reputation than it deserves. Some reasons:
- Some think Best Practice is just a set of complex bureaucratic rules some theoretic clerk in the back office, who does not know a thing about our real work, has created only to make our lives miserable.
- Some misunderstand the concept, believing Best Practice guides always have 300 pages, are full of small print and have endless, difficult to understand, no good paragraphs.
- Some feel that “My way” is the best. If you have 100 persons in a company with this philosophy, you will have 100 “My ways”. Just for clarity: “My way” is not a Best Practice.
- Some feel that the Best Practice rules must always be followed even though they don´t feel relevant any more. Well, the world around is in constant change. Change your Best Practice accordingly. Otherwise, you might one day find that you are out of business.
- Some feel there exist people/firms that are just born under lucky stars because they seem to succeed in everything they do. Look closer, and you will find they have a Best Practice mindset guiding them.
Lastly, some Best Practice related questions for you to think about:
If you are a frequent flyer, would you like your airline to have a documented Best Practice? We have all heard what can happen to airlines with no Best Practice.
Would you like the Captain of your airplane to have a Best Practice mindset, who also follows his/her Best Practice guidebook? We have all heard what can happen when this is not the case.
Would you like the company manufacturing your airplane to have a good Best Practice they follow? We have recently all heard what can happen when this is not the case.
Now imagine that you need to recruit a new CEO for the airplane manufacturer, the airline and a new Captain for a Jumbo airplane and that you need to use an Executive Search Firm to find them.
Would you like that Executive Search Firm to have a documented Best Practice their Search Consultants and Researchers are committed to, or would it be ok if they just did the Search “My way”?
Imagine if all the answers would be no and what this might lead to.
If you are interested in learning more about why Best Practice is so important, look at my book How to recognise Excellence in Executive Search.