What Are The Best Practices For Improved Operations?
Columnist Laurie Gilmer advises managers to rethink their views of best practices
When I started working with facility management performance metrics, I was fascinated. We had a list of potential metrics — nearly 200 — that one could use to measure the performance of a facilities organization.
What captured my attention wasn’t the huge variety of metrics, though that was impressive, but the idea that just a handful really mattered for any team and any business. You just have to find out which ones work for you.
On the occasions I would admit to having access to the impressive list of 200, I found there was almost always a follow-up question: “Can you share that list with us?” Everyone wants the list.
Which brings me to best practices. Oh, best practices. You can hardly pick up a facility management publication or attend an educational session without having some reference to best practices. But what are they, really?
Best practices are “commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective,” according to the Oxford dictionary. The International Facility Management Association has a similar and slightly more expanded definition, describing best practices as “techniques, approaches or methods for conducting business in a manner that has been widely recognized by peers and the industry as generally being the most effective and consistently providing the desired results.” Clear?
When best isn’t best
When we say we want to implement best practices, we tend to mean we think there is a better way to operate. We want to understand what others in the industry are doing, and we want to follow suit.
We believe the success demonstrated by others will be our own if we knew what they were doing and could do that too. We want to borrow a leaf from someone else’s book. But someone else’s success with a process, technology or methodology does not guarantee its success for everyone else in the industry. That is just their story.
Just as cherry picking from a list of 200 metrics doesn’t help you understand your facilities organization, a best practice isn’t best for your team if it isn’t meaningful and doesn’t help you meet your business mission.
I found a list of best practices recently that covered quite a range. One very specific best practice was to install LED lighting. Another was to inventory assets. Taking a more broad approach, two other best practices included measuring preventive maintenance activities against other maintenance activities, as well as using software to track customer requests. Are these really all industry best practices? They certainly came from around the industry. And some ideas were very good. But are they really the best, and could they really be considered best practices? Some of them met the definition, but many were more like good advice and good ideas to consider.