Everyone is constantly talking about best-in-class, and very often, for the wrong reasons, labeling themselves as such or indicating that is what they strive for. According to the business dictionary, best-in-class is defined as:
“Highest current performance level in an industry, used as a standard or benchmark to be equaled or exceeded. Also called best of breed.”
So what is this thing that many companies strive for, and is it truly what they should be trying to achieve? Sometimes by focusing on best-in-class, are we missing what is best-for-you?
No two businesses are exactly the same — that is a truism. Comparatives are always interesting and knowing what others are doing is of value — what is working or what is not. But there is a danger when looking at best-in-class — who decides what it is, and furthermore, when looking at instituting what someone had deemed as best-in-class — are you perhaps trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Often times, corporations are disappointed with the results from their efforts to emulate somebody else “best-in-class. Too often, these corporations spend a couple of years trying to implement something, which truly didn’t make sense for them, but because they were told to achieve “best-in-class” and as this is what the “best-in-classes” do, they felt obligated to try. Furthermore, who is it that decides that a certain approach, company, whatever is best-in-class. Where is that Oracle of Delphi that makes this determination?
Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of seeing what has worked (or hasn’t) for other firms. Yet once you’ve done that — then look at the business you’re running, and see if it makes sense for you. Having been an executive in many different industries, and consulting in many more, I can comfortably say that the Pareto rule is alive and well. That is to say that 80% of the aspects of the business are similar — processes, business drivers, etc.. However 20% are unique. What I have also learned it that if you ignore that 20%, anything you try to institute is doomed to failure. It is the square peg, round hole scenario.
So let’s give “best-for-you” more credence. Create your own horizon — take heed of the lessons learned from others, but don’t follow blindly — just because some amorphous mass tells you this is what should be done. Create your own footprint… and who knows — tomorrow someone might be calling you best-in-class!