Many companies adopt industry best practices to stay competitive. But high-performing companies do more: They also embrace unique “signature processes” that reflect their values.
Savvy executives recognize that a company’s core organizational and operational processes are crucial to realizing its competitive potential. These organizational processes integrate the goals of the business into its employees’ day-to-day activities via routines. Executives also know that a primary route to the development of such processes and practices is the study of best practice. The enterprise’s capacity to flourish depends in part on their ability to capture and embed best practices from their own and other companies. Without mechanisms that facilitate the sharing of best-practice knowledge — such as visits to exemplar companies, communities of practice and the use of experts — companies would be consigned to reliving the same mistakes day after day. Searching for and then articulating, refining and embedding best-practice ideas brings companies in a sector to a level playing field. Those companies that fail to adopt best-practice processes rapidly become complacent laggards.1
But our research into high-performing companies shows that while the search for and adoption of best-practice processes is indeed necessary, it is not sufficient. (See “About the Research.”) Other types of processes, which we call “signature processes,” also can be crucial. We find that a unique bundle of signature processes combined with industry best practice ultimately enables a company to prosper and compete.