Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carrying forward best practices

This seems to be difficult to practice. A good snippet or a best practice in a project never seems to get carried forward conciously in next assignment. Even the same person who has shown the spark of brightness seems to leave it behind. Why ?

Careful observation of teams and people leads me to believe that for best practice to survive beyond a transaction, managers and leaders must make the wish explicit in action to preserve them at any cost. Many issues happen in trenches and they should be the focus of nurture to make the best practices an inherent habit. Some key steps in my habitat that works are:

1. Instill Discipline: The best practices normally evolve in a transaction and in a pressure or critical situation with an assignment. It escapes the teams due to the priorities. The discipline is to codify, archive and share them.

No secretive pass along key can continue and take the best practice further than to codify, archive and share them.

2. Mandate more time per assignment: In ever increasing work load and work mails switched on in your sleeping time and beyond, timebox for each task is a potent inhibitant. We move into next task when we know that it is close to completion. We don't really stop a beat to look back and reflect on the task well done. You work on a sales demo, move to proposal, move to deliver on commitments, move to next and so that life sings "pull along" song.

You need to mandate more time to sit back, talk about it, reflect on it and better allow each one of them to reconstruct it. Only in groups, can you identify, phrase, reiterate and attest to the fact that there were best practices that were followed and evolved in the assignment. Then is the time to execute step #1.

As a leader, provision the time for the team to this exercise and mandate the discipline to share.

3. Provision for Viral Modes: This is critical. Sharing a document, putting it up on a blog, Collaborating on a wiki are all various tools used. The most effective, still is, to allow teams to get together and talk about it. As more and more technological advances occur, it is more and more reflection of the fact that viral modes are people to people transaction. Allowing for parties, get-togethers, meetings, post assignment sessions, giving time off, are all the most cheap and pervasive viral models available. These alone make sure that in a future time, on a new assignment, the best practice is remembered and followed.

Thinking that a best practice exists is the first step towards seeking it in various available technological platforms and forums.

4. Is there a "workbench" available ? When you start a new assignment, it is important to create the workbench. Workbench is set of tools selected and made available for the duration of the assignment that is readily available to you @ work. We often open a fresh canvas and start executing the job.

In a workbench, it is important first to select the tool (identify what best is available), sharpen the tool (bring relevant contributors, stakeholders on board), summarize the understanding (make the right assumptions and provide the right solutions) and then start work on assignment.

Collaboration systems, intranets, extra-nets, forums and all social tools enrich the "workbench" for better identification, and implementation of best practices.

Take your first step towards carrying forward the best practices and let me know how you do it consistently.

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