Best practice is understood only in its context. In Australia in the early 1990s best practice represented a government-sponsored initiative, supported by business and many unions, which comprised a set of innovative work and production practices and formalised, highly co-operative workplace relationships. In 2009, Australian best practice would more likely be seen as a 'high performance work system', overseen by a 'partnership' agreement. Few researchers have had the opportunity to consider in depth the limits of best practice in a population of organisations in which it was attempted, 17 or more years ago. This paper examines the fortunes of a unique group - 33 manufacturing organisations funded in 1991 and 1992 by a $25 million government scheme called the Australian Best Practice Demonstration Program. In August 2009, of those 33, 4 have closed down altogether; 3 have closed sites that were part of the funded project; 2 are about to close and 3 more are at obvious risk. Twenty-one re main operational. Drawing on publicly available information, this paper begins with an overview of the organisations, and their current (August 2009) status. Following that, we will examine the changes in ownership experienced by the funded sites/enterprises, to see if any patterns emerge that might help explain the changes observed. Finally, we will look in more detail at two of the best practice project sites - one which has closed down, and one still operating but under different ownership. Two questions are explored: Was best practice seen as a success at the time it was introduced? ; What explains the fate of the best practice project sites in the period to August 2009? Why did some close and others thrive? How much is attributable to best practice? If best practice is not the explanation, or not sufficient explanation, what is? ; At the conclusion, readers are asked to consider this paper as the first step in a research program to explore best practice and its sustainability in the Australian context, and provide their comments and ideas for next steps.
1st Asia-Pacific Workshop on Teams Under the Auspices of the International Workshop on Teamworking (IWOT). Proceedings of the First Asia-Pacific Workshop on Teams Under the Auspices of the International Workshop on Teamworking (IWOT) (Newcastle, N.S.W. 20-21 August, 2009)