A High-Level Sequence for Developing and Writing a Best Practice

Writing the Best Practice case study is the terminating activity of a cycle of process improvement. It is not the end of continuous improvement. A Best Practice shares the excellence achieved by the organization based on using

the BEST-method or other improvement approach. The suggested sequence of events to achieve a Best Practice process performance level is:

  • 1. Assess the current process using the BEST Quick Scan tool to identify major opportunities for improvement (see examples of Quick Scan use in Chapter 6).
  • 2. Use a preferred improvement model, such as the Plan-Do-Check-Act to close the identified gaps in performance.
  • 3. Employ the detailed BEST-tool criteria to fine-tune the process as described in Chapters 5 and 7.
  • 4. Iterative cycles of assessment and improvement will guide the organization to at least Level 4 process maturity.
  • 5. Sustainability measures and trending should be available for at least 5 years to qualify as a Best Practice.
  • 6. Maintain documentation and control measures to show the effects of either continuous or breakthrough improvement achieved during the Best Practice journey.

Many organizations are already on the Best Practice journey and will enter the above sequence of events mid-stream. This was the situation in the case study described in Chapter 7 Orange County Health Department. One of the authors assisted the client in improvements to an existing process using the PDCA-cycle without the benefit of the BEST-method. A BEST-method Quick Scan 12 years after the project was completed indicated that the process qualified as a Best Practice and highlighted gaps in the documentation that needed to be addressed before the process could be properly documented. Chapter 7 describes the final iterations of improvement and sustainability measures.

Documenting a Best Practice Case Study

According to the Total Quality Management (TQM)* philosophy a process is only reliable and repeatable if it is well described and standardized. A Best Practice is completely described through the 13 elements listed in Table 4.1.

Table 4.1 Best Practice - Standardized Presentation of a Best Practice

1. Title

2. Subject

3. Author (name, title, company, contact)

4. Context (sector, country restrictions)

5. Description of the method and results

6. Measurement method

7. Process description and maturity

8. KPIs (key performance indicator) and results

9. Distribution of the results

10. Cause and effect

11. Assessment of enabler and results

12. Conditions

13. Date and revision level

Use the following descriptions as a guide for documenting the recommended components of a Best Practice.

Title

Brief and precise description of what the Best Practice is about.

Good example: “Energy consumption in a paper mill of company ABC.”

Bad example: “Energy consumption in a factory.” This is too general.

Subject

Description (maximum 15 lines) of the subject of the Best Practice. What are the requirements, and which are the most important ones? This section also explains the scope of the process and any limiting conditions.

After reading this short text, the reader should have enough information to decide whether this example might be useful and worth reading.

Author

Provide practical information about the author:

■ First and last name

■ Function

■ Company and address

■ Contact information for the author (telephone, phone, and e-mail)

It is helpful to put the name and other information about the process owner into the Best Practice document. This is useful for contacting the author of the Best Practice.

Context

An organization or company does not exist on an island, but is embedded within a specific sector, region, or country. There are also special situations in a country that have an impact on the Best Practice. The reader must understand the local circumstances before deciding whether to take ideas from the Best Practice (Table 4.2).

For Belgians, this data may be obvious, but for foreign visitors, this may not be so. When comparing a Best-in-Class case study, you should always consider the context and understand how the company achieved the results based on their own operating conditions.

It is risky to blindly copy a Best Practice. Consider your own context. It is frequently necessary to translate the Best Practice into your own work situation.

Be aware that in addition to country- and sector-specific constraints, company culture plays an important role.

Table 4.2 Contextual conditions in Belgium

• High productivity

• High quality of education system

• Strong unions

• High energy costs

• Slow delivery of licenses

• High taxes and social contributions

• Extensive social system, including various systems of leave

• Multilingualism

• Many universities of high quality

• Outstanding and affordable health care system

• Strong networking between leaders and managers

• For some sectors Belgium is a world leader, e.g. pharmaceuticals

BOX 4.1 Example of Company Culture and Leadership

People in a defensive organization will not gain much from the application of the BEST- method in assessing their best practice. They have difficulties in accepting the messages from the BEST-assessment. They don’t like to hear that a number of things can be done differently. The probability that they will realize a Best Practice in the short or long term is low.

On the other hand, people working in an organization where constructive thinking styles are very well developed will be more ready to accept the findings (criteria and characteristics) from the BEST-method. They are open to discover areas for improvement. They also make action plans to improve the process. The probability of achieving a real Best Practice is high in this case.

Company culture is strongly dependent on the thinking styles and behaviors of the leaders.

 
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