When I hear the phrase “best practice”, I have to admit, I cringe – There is good practice and there is better than good practice; and there’s always the possibility of improving the practice.
To me, when I someone says “best practice” all I hear is:
“I’m too busy, ignorant or lazy to work it out myself, for my specific situation.”
“I haven’t taken the time to think it through.”
I do believe that there is good practice and there is better than good practice; and there’s always the possibility of improving the practice (whether good or bad) that you are working towards at this moment in time.
But the only true practice is the current practice.
The writings and current wisdom which do exist around the theory of “good practice” and “better practice” are aimed at principles which apply across an industry – or job role – or a process.
These practices are no more than collections of information, processes, data, roles, etc., that work well and cohesively together. They should be studied (and understood) in the context of who was writing the description. In other words:
- Which country was it written in?
- Which company was it written for?
- What is the culture of the company?
- What position in the organization does the person who wrote the practice hold?
- When did they write it?
Nothing is absolute across the world, as a whole, in every situation.
If you can define a truly best practice, then it will be automated and that job has been filled by a computer.
In reality, if someone tries to tell you that they are using best practice, they have labeled their concept incorrectly and, in essence, are lying to you.
In practicality, where marketing is concerned, it is simply a concept that they’ve come up with to win you over. Typically the authors they haven’t actually been through a best practice scenario; or studied what works best, in order to truly understand best practice.
What has probably happened is that they’ve been through a particularly bad scenario. Something that has been terrible, that has brought them down to reality, and they’ve reflected on it.
- They’ve looked at it
- They’ve analyzed it
- They’ve understood it
- They’ve said, what should actually happen here?
- How should it actually go?
Some of them might have actually been part of various trials which are looking to see if the idea works and, as a result, some good practices have come out of those; but they’ve never been part of best practice.
The reason they have never been part of best practice is because there is no such thing as best practice.
As mentioned above, there is only current practice and better practice.
Sometimes, good practice occurs from some careful orchestrating of bringing together the best ideas at the time.
At other times, you can have a collection of ideas which a group of people believes should occur together but which actually never do because of time, expense, culture or the existing environment.
Do you know why?
Because the human race is fallible. They come together in companies, businesses and involve bosses and staff. That wonderful thing called reality gets in the way ensuring that nothing becomes a truly best practice. Nothing will ever be best practice.
It is merely the evolution from good to better which then changes yet again as the world changes. The most suitable practice today.
There is no absolute best practice.
There is no biblical, be-all-and-end-all, best practice because as soon as you achieve what you see today as being the grandest concept in the world for your company in your current situation, in your country with your bosses, your staff, then your scenario soon becomes extinct and no longer workable in a new situation with new bosses and new staff, etc.
There is no competitive advantage in “best practice”
This is because the next person involved in the scenario is campaigning against you. If they do what you do, they’re only as good as you. They can’t be any better. There is no competitive advantage to being merely as good as you are. There is only the competitive advantage of being better than you were.
For this reason, they have to create a better practice than what you have in place now.
This is why whenever anybody says “best practice”, I don’t hear the words “best practice”, I hear:
- It’s good enough for someone else.
- I haven’t thought about it myself.
- I am not smart enough or capable of thinking it through.
- I simply don’t have the time and energy to put into working out what this particular practice should be for my scenario.
This train of thought is what it really boils down to. If you say best practice, it is probably because you believe that it is good enough to suit the scenario you currently find yourself in because you don’t want to put any more energy into it, which in many cases is “good enough”.
Best Practice is Obsolete
In addition to this, anything deemed to be best practice can be no less than three years old and, if it becomes a known practice across the industry, then it is probably at least six years old.
Any particular set of thinking or any particular set of ideals (in order to be deemed best practice) has normally taken the better part of six years to evolve to the point where people think it’s good and enough other people have heard about it and tried it out themselves.
In the offline world, no corporate is going to pick it up (unless it’s proven) unless somebody else has tried it out first, but then they are behind the ones who invented it and are now at least a 3-6 years ahead.
Now if you take the 3 to 6 years concept and translate that into the world of technology, then any laptop which is currently 3 years old might as well be 99 years old in computer terms.
Realistically, it’s ancient, it’s gone, it’s had its day. In reality, there is no reason to listen to (or invest in) a best practice which is more than 6 years old. Most “best practices” are 10 to 15 years old. And guess what, they have had their day and they are not the best practice anymore.
In order to achieve success in a company, you should be looking for the following:
- Focusing on your core strength and constantly improving.
- Reviewing existing and emerging technologies, practices and working through if they would fit within your environment.
- Constantly experimenting in small 1-2 month cycles, growing the ideas larger if they survive.
If this is the case, then best practice is not what you should be looking for. Best practice is merely “good enough” practice.
Best practice is Dangerous.
If you’re following best practice, then you are behind the curve.
- You are the followers
- You have no competitive advantage to offer your own company
- You have no competitive advantage to offer your customers
- You have no competitive advantage to stay ahead in your industry
Best practice is the process of being behind the rest of your competition, and that is the problem that we see with today’s “best practice” organizations.
They don’t really have an existence. They don’t really have principals to drive them. They don’t have an understanding of their place and their environment.
They are simply behind.
The real best practice for your situation (and for your organization) needs the following crucial items:
If you invest these items into your ideas, concepts and your company, then the rewards can be immense. That is the real message of what we’re trying to communicate.
If you want to understand how your business can take on better practice, a more appropriate practice, and practice the works within the organization within the context of what you are trying to achieve (i.e. what the goals of the business are, what the beliefs of the business are), then you are in a different zone than most other organizations.
You don’t have a best practice in mind. You have a practice that works for you.