What good are best practices if you don’t do something about them?

Prior to forming SmartOrg (2000), my colleagues and I were directors and principals of Strategic Decisions Group (SDG) where we directed our efforts towards helping companies derive the most value from their investments in R&D and product development. During the hay days of benchmarking, we worked with a founding father of benchmarking from Xerox who challenged us to benchmark and develop the best decision-making practices of strategic R&D management. The results were presented in a number of executives seminars in Europe and the United States and summarized in my colleagues’ best-selling Harvard Business School Press book, The Smart Organization: Creating Value from Strategic R&D.

At one of the seminars, attended by senior R&D executives from Fortune 500 companies, our Xerox guru wrapped up the session by admonishing the audience, “Some of you will take what you have learned during the past two days and go back to your jobs and try to do implement change. Most of you, however, will return, put the benchmarking/best practices on your shelf and do nothing.” The difference between these two groups revolves around adherence to the “principles of the smart organization,” which basically states that to successfully effect change, a set of principles needs to be in place. Otherwise your efforts are likely to fail.

Today, more than a decade later, most companies continue to employ ineffective practices when it comes down to developing and managing a high value-producing product portfolio. When so many millions – or billions – are at stake, it continues to baffle me that more companies haven’t “seen the light”.