Best practices are for mediocre companies

I always try to use the time between the years for a professional review: What special events took place, what experiences did I have, what did I learn and what can I take away from it all to improve my work? At the beginning of 2020, I got hold of the podcast by Pia-Maria Thoren and the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, which evidently passed me by last year.

Pia-Maria is a Swedish Agile Transformation Coach (Agile coaches who have become holistic change agents) – a demanding profession, which, in my opinion, is an asset for almost every company. This podcast is about agile HR / radical HR. While listening, one sentence in particular stopped me in my tracks: “Best practices are for mediocre companies.”

Pia-Maria connects the sentence to disruption: “If I want to work disruptively, I can’t get anywhere with best practices.” Today, companies need to be disruptive if they are to stand out from the crowd.

As an organisational coach, however, I relate the phrase more fundamentally to all organisational structures and change processes and have since used it frequently. Why?


People are complex systems and so are organisations. And complex systems have a number of characteristics. In other words, it’s impossible to predict how these systems, these people and organisations, will react when I introduce new impulses. However, organisations also tend to ignore the fact that they are complex systems. Their purpose is to control processes – and they try to achieve this through standardisation.


This contradiction comes at a cost. Every organisation is different – with a different workforce with different skills and aspirations, different challenges, different experiences. Standardisation in organisational structures and change processes, or best practices, therefore ignores the unique potential of the group of people who make up the organisation. My hypothesis is that this practice  leads to Mediocre Companies.


In your opinion, to what extent do best practices help, and to what extent do they hinder? Where do you see the balance between controllability and utilisation of potential? How can you make better use of existing potential and still “stay in control”?