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11/22/2008

The religion of “best practice”

Dave Ferguson left a comment on my blog yesterday that stuck such a resounding cord with me that I was motivated to flickrize it. Here’s the result:


After I did some crafting on this new image -- which you can bet will also show up in some future presentation of mine -- I stumbled across this thought-provoking post from Bailey WorkPlay:

Best Practices encourage the belief that there is just one true path.
Ever hear a consultant or industry peer tout best practices like they were written in stone and brought down from the mountain by Moses himself? They preach that all someone has to do is simply install these practices into their organization and they’ll score easy rewards. They’ll argue quite strongly that to ignore best practices is to needlessly “recreate the wheel” and waste valuable resources. It’s enough to make you feel like a sucker if you don’t immediately sign up to learn as many best practices as possible. But let’s be frank…the sucker turns out to be the blind adherent to the religion of best practices. Hopefully, this isn’t you.”

Read the full post, Tools of the Devil- Best Practices and let me know if you agree.

From an innovation standpoint, I can definitely see how blindly subscribing to “best practices” can definitely lead to the death of innovation. However, learning from "best practices" is another thing. The religion of learning I will always subscribe too!

Related thoughts: Best practice or fresh practice?

4 comments:

Dave Ferguson said...

Helene, I'm glad you liked the phrase.

There's a parallel with the old saw that everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die: everyone wants the "best," but no one wants to practice.

Of course we can learn -- as someone said, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

The key is to let some of that bad judgment be someone else's.

There's a lot of hoopla around "best practice." Think of the systems that turn into managerial flavors of the month: management by exception, management by objectives, zero-based budgeting, Six Sigma.

GE Aircraft saved lots of money when they stopped moving each plane engine more than five miles inside the plant -- but some of that was low-hanging fruit, and little of that is going to apply to a company handling health-insurance claims.

Cat said...

It's so easy to think that what solved the problems a few years ago will solve our problems today. Sometimes, with processes, it will . . . but sometimes the other factors have changed enough that you'll need a different solution. The thing is, since we end up promoting the people who solved the problems, you have to buck the system to use different solutions. Sometimes, anyway. We all have to work to guard against that.

jazzmary said...

Several elements emerge for me in this discussion:

Honesty is always risky, but neccessary to truly propel the best practices format. The recent stock market structure is an example of what happens when the truth is no longer a component, and practices are allowed to stagnate into false assumptions.

Respect is also important. All views and ideas should be considered, not just the thoughts of management. Sometimes the best ideas come from the fertile ground up.

Diversity is essential to integrate the web of ideas into a strong mesh of identity where you can hang your best practices.

Chris Bailey said...

Thanks for the post connection, Helene. Best practices in themselves aren't necessarily bad...it's the uncritical belief that simply applying them will yield best results. Seems that you and Dave are definitely spot on...keep learning.