THINKPIECE: What’s a best practice for one company may turn out to be the worst practice for another

About 20 years ago, Xerox jumped into benchmarking when its chief rival, Canon, rolled out a dollars 10,000 midsize copier, a price point lower than Xerox’s manufacturing costs. Was Canon truly more efficient? Or did this Japanese competitor ’buy’ market share by pricing below fair value?

About 20 years ago, Xerox jumped into benchmarking when its chief rival, Canon, rolled out a dollars 10,000 midsize copier, a price point lower than Xerox’s manufacturing costs. Was Canon truly more efficient? Or did this Japanese competitor ’buy’ market share by pricing below fair value?

About 20 years ago, Xerox jumped into benchmarking when its chief

rival, Canon, rolled out a dollars 10,000 midsize copier, a price point

lower than Xerox’s manufacturing costs. Was Canon truly more efficient?

Or did this Japanese competitor ’buy’ market share by pricing below fair

value?



Efficiency was the answer. So, after slashing unit production costs and

inventories, Xerox made turnaround history - and launched the American

versions of benchmarking and best practices, both part of the Total

Quality Management (TQM) movement.



Today everybody’s copying Xerox, from packaged goods manufacturers to

advertising/PR agencies. According to a recent study, 80% of

fast-growing small companies seek to identify role models worth

emulating.



But is all this activity producing great results? From what we’ve

witnessed the answer is no. Best practices conducted in a

less-than-optimal way can lead to the worst of thinking.



Best practices can promote shortcuts to thinking. Many times, the

conclusion of companies that have reviewed a list of great staff

relations ideas is: ’If it’s good enough for FedEx, then it’s good

enough for me.’ Then the practice is blessed, plagiarized and

promulgated - with little additional conversation.



Best practices are not customized to specific corporate cultures, to

employee demographics or to the host of other elements that set a

company apart. Just because Microsoft has a robust work-enabling

Intranet doesn’t mean that kind of collaborative computing is viable in

your institution. Rather, other people’s communications must be adapted

to your people, your industry, your challenges.



Best practices are too static, not reflecting the constant flux of the

workplace and the corporation. With all the emphasis on research and

continuous improvement, you might think that companies intent upon

benchmarking would constantly seek new ideas and techniques. Not so.

Many take best practices at face value, failing to update data and

discover that the client-interfacing processes of XYZ’s communications

department are no longer the latest trend. It takes a commitment of time

and energy, over the years, to uncover world-class processes. And to

continue that commitment. ’overnight’ benchmarking doesn’t cut it.



In the final review, it’s the usage of best practices that is wrong, not

the idea. We need to remember that benchmarking and best practices are

acquired mindsets. Both require new ways of thinking about processes and

products. Theory does matter. What also matters are thought,

practicality and third-party perspective we as PR practitioners tout.



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