In an age of increasing deregulation, technological change, and new competitive attitudes, organisations must become nationally – even internationally – competitive. To do so, it is essential to pursue ‘best practices’ – comprehensive, integrated, and cooperative approaches to the continuous improvement of all parts of an organisation’s operations. Leading-edge companies achieve world- class standards of performance in this way. Here are the general principles of best practice. Consider adopting them…

Following the principles of best practice is essential to a successful career.

1. Develop a shared vision and strategic plan.

Central to achieving best practice is a vision of world-class performance, shared by everyone in the organisation, translated into action through a strategic plan.

2. Ensure that your bosses are committed.

Committed bosses are essential to drive and support change processes. And one of their key roles is not only to provide leadership but also to recognise and encourage leadership at all levels of the organisation.

3. Provide a flatter organisational structure.

Competitive organisations respond to customers’ needs in a time frame acceptable to the customer. Flatter organisational structures are better able to deliver a quick response. They are usually characterised by devolution of authority – particularly via team-based activities, empowerment of workers, and improved two-way communication strategies.

4. Work towards a cooperative industrial relations environment.

Best practice workplaces promote effective communication and consultation throughout their structures. Enterprise bargaining, for example, is an effective process for introducing and institutionalising best practices.

5. Create a learning environment.

Two key qualities of a learning organisation are its commitment to continuous improvement and a recognition of the contributions of everyone in the organisation.

6. Develop and implement innovative human resource policies.

Occupational health and safety, equal employment opportunities, career-path planning, new remuneration systems, flexible working hours, part-time work, work-based child-care, and literacy training are just a few examples of innovative workplace initiatives.

7. Focus on your customers.

Customers determine the success of any enterprise. Organisations responsive to customers’ demands will profit in a variety of ways – increased market share, increased staff and customer satisfaction, and a reduction in the need for marketing.

8. Develop closer relationships with your suppliers.

Leading-edge organisations involve their suppliers as an integral part of their change processes. These links can cut inventories, create innovative opportunities, and ensure a higher quality of end product.

9. Pursue innovation in technology, products, and processes.

Market leaders have developed and employed integrated technology to ensure continuous improvement of production systems. Technology is not viewed in isolation, but as part of the whole system.

10. Use performance-measurement systems and benchmarking.

If you really want to compete, you will have to match and improve on the performance of the nation’s or world’s best. Benchmarking is a tool for organisations committed to achieving high standards of performance; so, too, are Six Sigma and the Balanced Scorecard.

11. Think ‘green’.

Increasingly, the integration of environmental management to all operations is becoming a component of competitive strategy.

12. Develop external relationships.

Networks can enhance an organisation’s competitive capabilities – through the sharing of information, by gaining access to services that individual organisations may not have been able to afford, in developing new technology or products, by exchanging staff to minimise costs associated with entering new markets, and so on. Networks can facilitate the pursuit of best practice programs.

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