Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Best Practices"

Whenever I hear someone talking about a "best practice," I always add the Homer Simpson modifier: "Best practice SO FAR..." What this term means is just that it's the best solution yet to some set of problems or circumstances.

My experience has been that they don't stifle creativity in creative people...they can serve as springboards for further creativity or improvement. I think they are best used just that way...as you're studying a process, and you're analyzing the cause systems that create the outputs and outcomes, you will look for aspects of the systems that can be worked on to optimize the outcomes. Looking at "best practices" is like looking at any other process...we're just starting with a process that has already been improved before (at least for this set of inputs).

The downside to "best practices" comes from leaders who hear the term "best" and decide that it must actually mean "best it could be." Managers who do this will try to force replication, without knowing what to replicate or why it worked in its original environment (and whether it will work in the new environment). In that case, it will certainly create road blocks and slow down process improvement.

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