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Learning Organization: Leveraging Best Practices

Globalization and the resulting intense competition has forced the organizations to continually seek efficient ways to improve.  They plan and undertake various initiatives to accomplish this.  A potent method to drive revolutionary improvement in productivity and enhance the enterprise’s ability to become a “Learning Organization” is to implement a Best Practices Transfer program.

Sharing business best practices can be an important lever of success for a Learning Organization.  A Learning Organization is the enterprise skilled at creating, acquiring, interpreting, retaining, and transferring knowledge, and at purposefully modifying its behavior based on new knowledge and insights.  Learning Organizations first look inward to identify, acquire, and share best practices.  There can be various processes and operations that can take advantage from the adoption of sound practical insights and practices from other parts of the organization—that are more successful overall, or are considered leading practices in certain disciplines.

Best Practices Transfer across an organization leverages significant strategic advantages and countless opportunities to unlock value across the entire value chain.  Post-merger operational integration and multinationals with multiple business units and independent operations globally can get the most value from Best Practices Transfer implementation.  By leveraging best practices both the buyer and the acquiree in a merger can achieve significant synergies and develop mutual trust and understanding.  Best practices propagation enables greater efficiency, control, and productivity within an organization.

However, not many attempts to propagate best practices at the entire organizational level have remained successful.  Organizations face various impediments while implementing a best practices program.  These hurdles could be due to traditional organizational structures, lack of support, isolated teams, existing mindsets and behaviors of the people, or existing ways of doing business.

To successfully propagate best practices—a method, strategy, or knowledge—to other parts of the company, learning organizations need to follow 5 key principles closely:

  1. Formulate the business case
  2. Adapt the practice according to local conditions
  3. Identify all the “invisibles”
  4. Reinforce collaboration
  5. Manage data storage and retrieval

Now, let’s break down the first 3 principles.

Formulate the Business Case

Explicitly state how the practice is going to help the business goals.  Articulating and developing the business case in an easy to understand way for all stakeholders (top management, suppliers, sponsors, and users) is important to gather support for best practices transfer.

Adapt the Best Practice in Accordance with Local Conditions

It is not possible to implement a practice in the exact same manner as practiced elsewhere.  Best practices implementation teams and end users need to tailor the knowledge to fit their local variations and circumstances.  More importantly, they need to avoid over-specification and inflexibility while documenting a practice.

Identify All the “Invisibles”

For the propagation of a practice, there is a need to identify and manage all the obvious and “invisible” aspects of it.  This includes the implicit knowledge related to the practice—e.g., unique capabilities required of the individuals, critical interactions between the practice and the organizational environment, and collaboration among the team members operationalizing the practice.

Interested in learning more about the key principles to propagate best practices across the organization?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on Learning Organization: Leveraging Best Practices here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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