Turning the Best Practice Myth into Reality

Best Practices are everywhere. They get their very own ‘sharing’ slots in meetings. They make it into many management objectives and performance goals. Companies and even entire industries have them. People are looking for them, willing to adoptthem. Consulting firms make millions of dollars from them.

Yet Best Practices are mostly a myth, a business legend: Always cited, never seen.

When a Best Practice gets shared it is typically clinically clean and either too generic or too specific to be adopted. Coming up with Best Practices that resonate with others is difficult. Whether it is a production process, a server configuration or a sales strategy: It has been conceived based on experience and context. What the people knew before and what they have learned on the way is part of it and so is the environment in which it has been developed.

While we can share experience, others cannot adopt it. Ask your children when they do the same mistakes you wanted to protect them from by sharing your experience with them. They still wanted and needed their own.
A similar problem exists with context: Unless you create a nearly identical environment (people, process, tools) every Best Practice adoption will be challenged by the “not invented here”-syndrom.

Let’s remove the “this is the perfect and only way of doing it” connotation from Best Practices. Let’s share experiences, what worked for us and what did not. Let’s share more of the journey and less of the result. Talk about the obstacles on the way and not only about the great successes. Make them about the dirty fights and not about fame & glory. Share the blood, sweat and tears, the cul-de-sacs and the disappointments.

Best Practices need to become more authentic to learn from them. Maybe that’ll help them to come into existence.

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