Being Best in Class


Frederick Taylor (1919) said as much nearly 100 years ago. “Among the various methods and implements used in each element of each trade there is always one method and one implement which is quicker and better than any of the rest” (Taylor, 1919) [1]. Wikipedia goes on to describe:

Best Practice is a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a project can be rolled out and completed with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. [1]

I am frequently approached by consultants who want to talk to me about best in class companies and the things they are doing. The things they do are called best practices. You have to believe that by following best practices one can become a best-in-class company. But a company is a rather abstract concept, at least for me to fully fathom, so thinking about it on a more personal level makes it more understandable.

In western clutures, best in class people don’t pick their nose (at least in public) don’t put their elbows on the table, eat with their mouth closed, don’t have garish houses that mix competing styles of design, art, colours, etc. So, if I do all these things, will I be upper class? How many of these best practices do I have to follow to be, say middle class? If I don’t do any of these things will I be lower class?

Is following these best practices the same as being best in class? Is doing the same as what you are; your nature? If the old saying “do as I say, not as I do” means anything, the answer is no. Doing best practices should result from what you are; your nature. Doing things just because you think they are the right things is superficial (and probably leads to no end of psychological problems). What you do does not necessarily change what you are, although I’m sure over time doing best practices may change your nature for the “better.”

So, can a company change its nature so that it is best in class just by doing things that are best in class? May be. Does a company have to change its nature to be able to define best in class activities? Probably. Should a company go through the effort to change its nature to be best in class? Depends on whether it is in their nature. To be a successful company, one probably does not need to be the best in class; better in class is likely sufficient to be profitable. To be better in class, you can copy what the best in class companies do.

May be there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Best practices are things you do, but you still have to think
  2. You need to pick which practices to follow; you don’t want a garish company


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