best practice sharing

Clients ask all the time, "There has to be someone else out there who's figured this out, right?" What they're asking about is best practice sharing-- something we can and should do more of.

One of my real property asset management clients is both incredibly generous with his program “stuff”, as well as, intensely curious about what everyone else is doing. He fielded a request from a comparable state organization the other day to share "how to" guidance.  He was all over it and went nuts gathering up and shipping off a bunch of documents that range on the helpfulness scale from huge time-savers to mildly interesting. I suspect that the asker will be a wee bit overwhelmed but will appreciate the effort and enthusiasm. Just last week, this same client participated in an industry round table we hosted on performance measures in an effort to glean insights from the other participants from NASA, BLM, and the newly formed Defense Health Agency (DHA). Fantastic.

So, why aren’t we all better at this?

In concept, I get why consultants can be funny about protecting their work. Though in 16+ years of consulting, there really are no process flowcharts, matrices, or organization charts that rise to the level of intellectual property worth fiercely protecting. It’s a waste of time to worry about guarding the generic, non client-specific examples we develop. We could all be better about putting our stuff out there for reaction, comment, and adoption.  The industry would be better for it and force us to continue to innovate.

On the government side, of course, there are programs that require the utmost discretion but there is still a lot of sharable stuff that isn’t being swapped. Based on my observations, there are two (relatively easy) fixes that would help increase sharing.

  • First, let’s stop calling them best practices and maybe just shorten the term to "practices." People get hung up on whether or not their best is good enough. In reality, best is in the eye of the beholder and at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. Only a handful of practices have been truly tried and tested and blessed as “best” so let’s not worry about it. Instead, any insights into what everyone else is doing to solve a specific federal mandate is just helpful.

  • The second hang-up is around the not done yet status of most business practices.  Steps and guidance are under development and in flux for years.  No joke. Having everything in draft creates a reluctance to share because, after all, it might just change completely after the next round of feedback.  We should get in the habit of just calling our work done for now . I get that there are some landmines to be avoided with the use of the word FINAL but we're all clever enough to figure out work-arounds :) While doing this, we need to incessantly communicate to the field-level implementers that all practices are the best we can do for now and that once we figure out a better way, they’ll change.

I should mention that this client’s asset management program is certainly not classified or sensitive in any legal or informal sense of the word.