Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Best Practices Poorly Executed Are Not Best Practices

Over the past decade the buzzword "Best Practices" has become pervasive in business. In theory I am a fan of the concept, as there are too many people who waste time and money trying to create their own road when a giant freeway already exists. It is good when we can learn from others and thus find quicker ways to create our own velocity.

However, many executives use the term as a crutch (as they do with most trendy business "buzzwords"). One manager I know spends so much time looking for best practices that he never appears to have any practices at all.

Additionally, many misuse perceived best practices and end up with watered down policies and procedures that limit their success.

My friend (Brigitte Benquet) recently said "Best practices poorly executed are not best practices". This statement rung in my ears the rest of the day. It is both simple and true. If we seek best practices we must both implement them properly and adapt them for our own unique situation.

A best practice is a tool, not a magic button. Like any tool, it must be understood, sharpened and used correctly to provide efficiencies.

Finally, a commonly accepted practice or rule is not necessarily a "best practice". We toss such terms around so freely that they become cliche. If you are a fan of "best practices" (as I am), make sure you are really looking for those ideas that are positively revolutionary to your business.

This sentence, from Wikipedia, says it best:

"As the term has become more popular, some organizations have begun using the term "best practices" to refer to what are in fact merely 'rules', causing a linguistic drift in which a new term such as "good ideas" is needed to refer to what would previously have been called "best practices."

Have A Great Day.



Annette Priest said...

Well said, Thom.
"Industry standard" does not equal "Best Practices".

Geoff Votta said...

The quote from Brigitte is right on but I think it goes a step further... most "best practices" are constantly being challenged through continuous process improvement and therefor today's "best" will more than likely not be tomorrow's "best." Though change tends to happen more slowly, the variability and subjectivity of "best" make the idea of a singular "best" unreasonable and short lived it ever reached. But it is the striving for that unattainable that creates "better practices." Maybe I am just playing with semantics :)

Your thoughts?