About Core Practice
Not everyone can afford or wants best practice. We fully support best practices for those organisations that have the commitment and resources and reason to adopt best practice. For those who do not, something more pragmatic is required, which can be distilled from best practice as well as from legislative requirements and other sources. For these organisations (e.g. small businesses, start-ups, the cash-strapped) there is Core Practice. “If you do nothing else, do these things.”
We call it CoPr, pronounced "copper". Why copper? Well, because that is how the acronym sounds, obviously. But also because it isn't gold. You want the gold version? There are plenty of organisations who will sell you the gold version. This is the copper version. It is nearly as pretty and has all the same properties (near enough), but for a lot less cost.
Best Practice has become something of a sacred cow in business. It is taken as a given that organisations want to achieve best practice in everything they do and an organisation that doesn't is somehow less worthy than those that do. This should not be the case. Pursuing Best Practice is a strategic decision, which should be taken when there is an agreed ROI (tangible or intangible) for the resource investment required to get there.
"Decision" implies there are options: to do it or not. So what is the alternative to Best Practice? Searching the Web will yield some talk of “minimum standards” or similar concepts. These are of two kinds: meeting legislative and other obligations/requirements, and not failing. But there is usually a negative connotation around these, and there isn't the systematic approach that there is to the concepts of Best Practice.
We believe the world is ready for
Core Practice: the strategic decision to minimise cost in a discipline of the enterprise by implementing practices sufficient to (a) meet obligations and (b) to make processes work to a standard sufficient that risk (to the organisation and to people in its care) is reduced to some acceptable level.
Never mind TQM and Continuous Incremental Improvement: sometimes it's OK to “do it'll-do”, to stop at good enough.
Core Practice does not mean shoddy practice, or avoidance of any design or planning. Core Practice is not the absence of formalised practice. It is a defined set of essential or minimum practices.
By consciously considering the options of Core Practice and Best Practice for a given discipline and choosing to adopt Core Practice for that discipline, an enterprise gains:
In addition, of course, they also gain the benefits of adopting any formal set of practices, Best or Core, including:
We have created the Institute of Core Practice (IoCP) as an international body to gather, agree, manage, promote, certify and publish this defined set of Core Practices, starting with key business disciplines such as Governance, Computing (IT), Service, Operations, Finance, and People (HR), and starting with a focus on small business (as the group we see having the most crying need for defined Core Practice).
Such a set of practices needs to fulfil the following criteria:
It can be seen that the practices required to meet these criteria will vary between organisations and between countries. However, the effort involved in analysis, design and implementation of tailored practices to the specific requirements of an organisation is the biggest objection to the adoption of Best Practices. For Core Practice to be an acceptable alternative, it needs to be useful out-of-the-box.
This dilemma is resolved (pragmatically) by accepting that any published set of Core Practices can only be a lowest common denominator set of practices, universal to organisations and countries alike. It will reduce most risks in most organisations, and meet most regulatory requirements in most countries.
The delta between what the published set delivers and what is required in any given instance is met by:
The risks of these less-formalised approaches are mitigated somewhat by the fact that Core Practices are simpler than Best Practices by definition, so tailoring requires less analysis and less rigour. Informal approaches and self-help will be adequate to achieve a useful outcome. We believe many organisations will take the third option and operate on the minimal set without tailoring, at core for a time and/or in non-critical areas.
Core Practice should be the default: the most sensible option for most organisations in most situations. Best Practice is an option to be adopted where it gains a competitive advantage or efficiency sufficient to justify the investment in achieving it.
Examples of where Best Practice is usually more appropriate:
“Best practice” is an unfortunate term because of the pejorative implication that anything else is not-best. “Best” is an emotive and judgemental word that implies several things: (a)nothing else is better (b)anything else is worse (so by subtle inference there is something wrong with you if you choose to do anything else) (c)someone has evaluated it to determine it is best (so by inference it can be measured).
Until now there has not been a generally accepted alternative concept to Best Practice. In most disciplines, the standards, guidance or methodologies define only the Best Practice. The only option is “absence of Best Practice”. Occasionally there is both Best and Minimum Practice, but usually with the implication that the Minimum standard is not a desirable state of affairs: users are expected to “pull their socks up” at some later stage and achieve Best Practice.
We want it to be acceptable for someone to say "we take a Core Practice approach to X", and do so without shame or embarrassment. We want that to be a respectable business decision to make and a viable option to select.
In most situations we expect that an enterprise will first implement Core Practice across the board as a foundation of effective processes, and then later opt to enhance processes up to Best Practice standards in strategically selected disciplines where a business case can be made.