Cake, Covers and Best Practices


I love Cake. And while that is true in many different ways, I’m not speaking today about the icing delivery system we all know so well. Instead I’m referring to the band whose most popular song, “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” you’ve probably never heard.  What I really dig about them, though, is their selection of covers across their albums. War Pigs (yes, the old Black Sabbath song, Ruby (yes, the old Kenny Rogers song), I Will Survive (yes, the old Gloria Gaynor song) and Mahna Mahna (yes, the old Muppets song) are all served up in new ways.


Covers aren’t easy to pull off.  If you start with a great tune, you can either try to copy the original or do something new with it.  If the tune is weak, you have to save it from itself.  A cover, to me, implies you do something new, so I have a lot of respect for a band like Cake (as well as Alabama 3 and the White Stripes) for doing new things with good material.  The Stripes get extra credit for taking material that would be considered weak by the current audience (Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” for instance) and making it popular.  I have to admit that in many cases I like the cover more than the original.


All of this is, to me, a great way to look at best practices.  I tend to shy away from them at times, thinking that following someone else just ensures you’ll never be in front.  But the key to leveraging a best practice from someone else is to cover it, not copy it.


It’s not likely that your practice is identical to anyone else, so you probably can’t just create a carbon copy of someone else’s process and use it successfully.  Your organization needs the results and the great ideas that are out there, but your talent and knowledge are just as important.  As an example, I’ve worked with organizations that were great at talent acquisition.  We put together a very comprehensive program of SLAs, documents, resume filters, processes, transfer maps, and rules.  We reduced cycle time, implemented some great metrics and governance models that you wouldn’t believe.  It was important for a large organization with a lot of talent to watch over.  It was, I think, a very successful program that improved our operation across the board.


Does that make it right for you?  Maybe.  Maybe not.


Your organization may not need all of those things.  Maybe you just need a clean recruiting plan template.  Maybe you need a way to communicate your progress to your hiring managers.  Maybe you need to outsource your recruiting and focus on your retention efforts.  It all depends on your organization.  Are there elements you can lift and shift?  Probably.  The best way to find out is to dig into the best practices you find, really understand them, and then find the parts that will resonate with your customers.  The rest is waste.


Take the time to understand the harmony, the melody, the bass line and the groove of their practice and bend them into your own song.  Cover.  Don’t copy.


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