Have you ever experienced the following? It happens to me quite regularly. We are invited to a barbecue and everyone brings something. There are many delicious salads, dips, cakes, etc. and at some point it happens: “Oh, this is so delicious. How did you do that? I absolutely need the recipe!” And the spark flies right over, now everyone needs the recipe.
Said and done. The recipes are exchanged, and eventually we go to work to cook the treat as well. And all too often it happens, we realize it “tastes different somehow”. But how can that be? The recipe was followed exactly! I think the answer is quite simple: it depends on the cook! A pinch of salt is just not a pinch of salt, and in each recipe has somehow a certain freedom of interpretation. Not to mention that every oven and stove also has its own characteristics.
The same is true now and then in many companies. You start to implement what is supposed to be something new, but before you even get something up and running, you start to copy from others. But not just anyone; no, it must be a copy of the best. In the case of company processes, this is called best practice processes: a collection (often called a framework or model) of processes that are successful in many other companies. And like the example above with the recipes, companies do exactly the same. They copy them but somehow they do not each get the same results and wonder why.
The truth is that it simply cannot work. Because like the size of your pinch, or the operation of your oven, every company is different. Everyone has their own strategy, their own goals, their own processes, resources, tools, and above all, employees. These corporate best practices should not be copied verbatim. They should merely serve to provide direction on a course, or simply examples of application. If you use best practices in this way,( i.e. by using them as orientation aids), adjusting them at the appropriate places, then you can successfully design new processes. If you do not, you will be disappointed that your own salad does not seem to taste as good.
Here is another side to consider: Imagine, at your next party all salads taste the same. That would be boring too. In competition, that would mean companies cannot distinguish themselves.
Best practice processes can provide clues to shape one’s own processes, but should never be completely copied. When in doubt, your own individual solution is always preferable.