Forms of “Copying” that Lose You Money

Process and data modeling
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I mean seriously, what organization or government wouldn’t want to copy what another is having success with in the marketplace.  It is the right thing to do and after all . . . everybody does it.  This has to be right approach.

The problem is, it is not the right approach.  Yet we are inundated with those that advocate and perpetuate things like tools, benchmarking and best practices.  All are forms of copying and can get your organization to lose grown quickly.

Systems thinking begins with understanding that no two systems are alike.  The translation is that all organizations are different.  Think about it, different people, different customer demands, different processes, different technology and the list goes on.

So why is it that consultants, technology companies and others always want to copy?  Usually because they weren’t the ones that came up with the method, but anyone can copy.  This approach doesn’t teach people in organizations how to develop new methods and what I find with tools is no one seems to be discovering new ones.

And so it goes with systems thinking, we teach that all organizations are different.  Three good questions to ask before copying: Who invented the tool? What problem were they trying to solve? Do I have that problem?  In service industry this is constantly abused by lean practitioners as they apply lean manufacturing tools to service (never a good idea to blindly apply).

As for best practices, the issue is that this is usually applied by software development firms that want to sell the standard software package.  There is no “one best way” and this approach totally discounts that there is always a better way.  I start to hear things like “everyone uses an IVR” (Interactive Voice Response) for their call center and you should have one too.

No, you shouldn’t and other blog posts will tell you why.  It is to assume that this will make things better and we know that assumptions are bad to make.  This is true especially when dealing with systems as complex as service organizations.

Organizations spend a pretty penny benchmarking against each other to compare, what a waste of resources.  It is difficult enough to compare (and expensive), but in comparing to a different organization in the same industry we ignore the fact that all organizations are different.  So save your money and invest in your own organization.  The truth is every organization has what it needs within it to improve.

Another reason for not copying is that you will never catch up.  Manufacturers for years have been trying to “catch-up” to Japanese Manufacturers.  The problem with this approach is that you never catch-up, unless of course you are Toyota that has left the door wide open.  The Toyota problem is copying the US investment community and has left Toyota with the same short-term thinking that has infected the US for so long.

For me, it is the thinkng that develops good ideas to improve systems.  To improve performance we have to change our systems (and no this is not just processes), we have to change our thinking about the design and management of work.  No copying in the form of tools and best practices, but the mindset to create the improvement.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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