A colleague of mine once railed against the term “best practices”, saying: “It’s about time we all stopped using the term “best practice” – really, it’s almost impossible to say that one practice is going to be the best one across industries and organizations. I think we need to start using the term ‘effective practice’… it’s our job to determine which practices and which examples are going to be the best fit for our own organizations, rather than to simply adopt practices that have worked somewhere else.”
Taken by itself, I think that’s a profound statement; one that could spark some interesting dialog for you and your colleagues. It’s the term “effective practice” that caught my eye, though, and got me to thinking about this question: “what are your team’s most effective practices?” In other words, what would others around the organization say your team does really well? What is your team known for? And more importantly, do you (and the team) know what those things are?
I’ve taken a stab at a quick “Top 10” list of macro practices that your team probably engages in (see below).
- Coming up with innovative ideas
- Project planning
- Soliciting input from key stakeholders
- Simple, elegant design of tools or processes
- Execution & management of programs or services
- Customer or client service
- Clear communications
- Creation & tracking of meaningful metrics
- Building and maintaining relationships
- Listening to feedback and adapting tools, processes, services
Every team I ever led was better at some of these than others. You’ve probably had the same experience. The question is – which of these practices does your team excel at, and what does that say about your team? At your next staff meeting, try this simple exercise: Have each member of the team rank order this list from most effective to least effective, and then compile and share the answers. Use this list, or better yet, have the team create their own from scratch. What do their answers reveal about how they see themselves? Do you agree? Is this the image you want to be projecting to the rest of the organization? Then, ask your peers or internal clients (or even external customers) to complete the same exercise – have them rank your team according to these broad practices. Gather 7 or 8 peer or customer rankings, and compare their aggregate list to your team’s rankings. How do you stack up? How does your internal opinion of your most effective practices compare to that of others who interact with the team?
It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it – “most effective practices.” What do we really do well? Sort of opens up all kinds of interesting roads to go down as a leader. Begs the “why” question, for sure. Why do we do this well? Why don’t we do that more effectively? If you want to bring your team up to a new level of effectiveness, try this exercise. Find out what your team’s unique “effective practices” seem to be… and then starting thinking of ways to leverage those, while building new capability in the least effective areas.