Monday, September 12

Why I Hate "Best Practices"


The phrase, people.  It’s the phrase I can’t abide, not the idea or intent of so-called best practices.

Why?  It’s irrational.  It’s grammar geeky.  But let’s go to the dictionary anyway.

Best:
adj. Superlative of good.
adv. Superlative of well

Superlative:
See?  A “best” practice has to be unsurpassable.  Not gonna happen.

“Best practice” suggests there is no or little room for improvement.

But “the best-possible-practice-until-we-improve-on-it” is awkward and not very catchy.  And “the-practice-we’re-using-right-now-because-it-works-best-for-us-in-our-situation-for-now” is worse.

What prompted this, again, is a blog post I read as I was trying to catch up on some of my reading.  The title of the blog post?  “Whena Best Practice is a Worst Practice.”  I was kind of digging that, but right away the author, Mitch Ditkoff, suggests he might actually like (ergo “approve of”?) best practices. 

I sighed and kept reading.  And there was kind of a payday for that persistence.

Ditkoff writes:
People start becoming satisfied with emulating other people's lives.  Instead of thinking up their own best practices, they imitate.  Ouch!  
The spirit of innovation gets replaced by the religion of innovation.  
Gone is reflection.  Gone is the process of discovery.  Gone is the ownership that comes with birthing new insights.  In it's place?  SimulationImitation.  And, all too often, the blind following of pre-packaged solutions.  
I'm not saying there isn't value in paying attention to other people's best practices.  There is.  
But when imitation replaces creation, something invariably gets lost--and innovation eventually goes down the drain.
Here’s what I’d like to add to Mr. Ditkoff’s comments.  Reflection and discovery are key not only to innovation, but to making sure that the practices in place—the processes and procedures, the models and templates, the RASCI or SIPOC or whatever mechanism(s) you use—make sense!

If you want a real (IMO) best practice: be sure you regularly review your “best” practices to make sure they are the most valuable, most reasonable, most viable, most pragmatic, most whatever practices you can have in place given all of the factors of your work place or your situation.  And when you reflect on those practices, when you seek to discover if they are in fact still the “best practices we can have in place right now,” be sure you look up and around and think about the others who intersect with you and your work, who need or want to collaborate with you and your colleagues, who depend on your work and practices, etc.  Please, please be sure your review, reflection, and discovery are meaningful.  And then don’t be afraid to improve on those “best practices until we found that we forgot to think about this situation” practices.

No comments: