Best Practice

The word arrogance means to turn away from questioning. I understand it has its roots in the Latin words ab, meaning away, and rogare, meaning to question.

Best practice is arrogance in motion. The minute you believe you have achieved best practice, you stop asking questions. Well of course you do, what you have is the best. Best practice see, it says so.

Good practice and better practice are both useful places on an improvement or development journey. But best practice?

Best practice is game over. You lose, they win.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

16 thoughts on “Best Practice”

  1. ‘Best Practice’ is one of the massacres of language that businesses are really good at. The idea’s not wrong; it’s just that the words don’t describe what it means.

    There is a related tale of the business that was aiming for ‘Continuous Improvement’: launched with fanfare, CEO address on video, you know the stuff. Six months later the Board hear the consultants report improvement in only one Division. ‘What’s different in this Division’, they ask and the CEO leaves his ivory corner suite to find out. In the canteen of this successful Division, he sees a poster. In the corridor conversations and in the meeting rooms, he hears the words. What do they say? Not ‘Continuous Improvement’ but ‘Doing simple things better’.

    Communicate what you want and you will likely get it. Massacre some words for a sound bite and you just might die out there.

    1. Doing simple things better. I want that poster!

      I think the idea of best practice is wrong though. It’s wrong because things change all the time and attaching the word best is just bound to make people think that’s as good as it can get, isn’t it?

      I love your warlike conclusion, thanks very much.

      1. I understand your frustration from word “best” but we don’t call it “best practice ever” and once again HR should ask him self “what is the best practice known to us by now ….considering where we stand and what we do right now. Hence knowing what was best yesterday + looking for better in the future.
        I like the philosophical debate around this word though.

        1. you are right Peter – the forever bit is not used, phew! I agree that the future focus is what is important πŸ™‚

  2. “Best Practice” has been used to death, particularly in “Communities of Practice” (another of my pet loves…).

    I once stopped my team dead in its tracks when I said “Best Practice” doesn’t exist! If it did, we wouldn’t be here having this conversation”.

    “But we have best practice…” was the answer…

    “There are lots of “Good Practices” which we may call “best” because we developed them, but for it to be BEST, it really has to be the ultimate holly grail of best! We should be looking at ways to adopt, use and continue to develop these good practices…”

    “So…what should we call it then?” and upon hearing that answer I pressed the mute button on the call and went for a coffee…

    1. Another great story from the hallowed halls of The University of MrAirmiles. Love the mute button moment πŸ™‚

  3. I agree with Kevin. The idea of “best practice” is much better than it sounds. Revision of all policies and procedures is a must of any business. “best practice” for me reflects the best solution in time and space available right now. Not questioning it is indeed arrogant and blind. At the other hand “best fit” is commonly used as an alternative to “best practice”. However it is also known as not necessarily way forward. Hence more contemporary approach is needed looking for the best fit and best practice in the same time. I agree easier said than done, yet that is why we HR folks are here, to make sure our practice meets requirements of business strategy as we play role of business partners, and be there for workforce as employee champions.
    Feeling little bit Greek today and therefore I quote Socrates to show how we should approach our policies every now and then: “I know that i know nothing”

    …and short but to the point quote from Heraclitus explaining why we need to question it: “Panta Rei”

    1. Hey Peter – that’s good, I can comprehend your definition of best in the time and space available now. And I love that “I know that I know nothing”. We need to get a few folks together and form a t shirt business! Your flowful response is much appreciated

  4. Good point, succinctly made. We had a discussion along these lines before we launched our “Good Practice Guides” section on XpertHR. We decided to opt for “Good” rather than “Best” for exactly the reason you describe.

    1. Hi David. Thanks for popping by delighted to meet another “Good” fan and here’s to getting to know you “Better”

      Cheers – Doug

  5. Arrogance indeed! There’s also a level of ignorance I think… organisations get so caught up with comparing and competing that they lose sight of what is good about themselves and how they can develop. Isn’t it better to be good at being you rather than good at imitating someone else?

    1. Hello David. You have hit on a very important issue here. Lots of organisations do indeed get caught up competing. Not out there in the market place but inside, with themselves! Thank you for your reminder about authenticity. With authenticity in mind, my daughter Keira is standing next to me and she says hi!

  6. Doug, this reminds me of the discussion about stretch targets in another group. As in many things the intent is fine – an intent to inspire to improve – but it is execution that is often woefully lacking.

    As soon as someone tries to processize this sort of thing, set standards and consistency we tend to sink to the highest implementable solution which is often the lowest common denominator!

    There is a lot to be said for JFDI.

    1. Hello to you Ian. Well said – it is so often the execution that is woefully lacking (what a sad sounding pair of words that is). Your contribution is beautifully worded, I love the high low observation. And yes – JFDI is a good book, short and to the point.

      Thanks so much for adding more insight to this conversation Ian.

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