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Manager's Corner / September 28, 2021
Best Practices vs. Axioms
However I will forewarn you to be careful when you are pitching your services when you identify them as “best practices.” You’ll receive a different reaction when you pitch them to HR then you will to executives in operations.
From the Vocabulary of Success, 2nd ed:
In a management process, an axiom is a sound principle that has been proven by ongoing, pragmatic evidence over a period of time, concerning a defined activity or process of management.
Axioms in management are self-evident principles that have proven success by actual CEOs and executives over a period of years, and not a part of research or unproven concepts of theory developed by academia. They are not subjective opinions of what works best, but objective facts.
In a management process, a best practice is a technique that is generally accepted as superior to other alternatives through the opinion of a multitude of companies using that technique.
Best practices in management are subjective guidelines which should be observed but not necessarily followed by high-growth companies because transformation usually tilts a best practice toward the view of the uncritical many, and not the critical few of a high-growth company.
Keep in mind that best practices are not axioms because they are based on what is opinion by the uncritical many as to what is best for every critical few company. HR managers love to hear “best practices,” but studies have proven that best practices are not necessarily good for all companies because no two companies are the same, so one best practice for one company is not necessarily a best practice for another. I believe it’s the reason why “lean,” “six sigma,” and ISO do not have strong staying power once a company spends to train on them. They become chores followed by the uncritical many, and flourish under regulated government guidelines.
Best practices are good guides to start, but a manager needs to adjust her processes according to what fits her unit, not what somebody says fits her unit. This is particularly true with high growth companies, where transformation and cross functional teams are critical ongoing ingredients for success. Best practices need to be tweaked by the high growth manager, whereas axioms don’t.
The great Jack Welch of General Electric had an obsession with best practices, but the company almost went out of business in the past 5 years. In the book entitled “Lights Out….the fall of General Electric (Gryta/Mann),” it is pointed out that Welch should have been focusing on axioms and not best practices. It was a sham.
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