I overheard a conversation recently about best practices. One person declared, “I do not believe in best practices. We’re not in that world anymore.”
While I’m not sure I want the job of convincing someone to believe in best practices, I would argue that we haven’t eliminated best practices from our workplace lexicon. By definition, a best practice is a method/process regarded as delivering a desired result. In business, we’re always looking for better and more efficient ways to get things done.
We are also in the world of telling stories. Stories about the things we’ve done to achieve results. We tell stories in meetings, on blogs and social media, during training workshops and keynote presentations. Every little story conveys a best practice of some sort.
Here’s where I see best practices get tricky. It’s not in having best practices or telling others about best practices. It’s in processing the information against what we already know. For example, if I already have a process in place for keeping my email inbox organized – that’s a best practice for me. As I hear about other ways to keep email organized, I have to decide if the new method is better at achieving my desired result. If it is…it becomes my new best practice. If not, then it doesn’t.
Best practices seem to have a personal quality to them. We tend to tell stories about the things we feel are best practices. And we listen to the stories we think could be best practices for us. Maybe part of sharing and adopting best practices has to do with the people involved. The individuals telling the story have to appear knowledgeable, credible, and sincere.
It also seems another key component of best practices is understanding what desired results you’re looking for. Or keeping an open mind to try new things in areas you’re already comfortable with. Maybe it will yield new results.
Joe Gerstandt shares his views about best practices in the post, “About that rumble in your belly…” While I don’t believe that best practices are relics of another time, I do agree that implementing someone else’s best practice must be done properly.
One person or company’s best practice can be someone else’s disaster. Case in point – years ago, someone on my team attended a conference where they participated in a session about having fun at work. The speaker was from a well-known and highly regarded retail store that sells gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. (I’ll let you guess who I’m talking about.)
My team member came back and immediately decided we needed to implement the same thing. In the same way. They missed the point of the best practice. It wasn’t to duplicate what the other company did and start throwing staplers at each other. It was to remember that fun can be an integral component in work and organizations should consider how to incorporate fun into employee’s jobs. The best practice is about fun, not about throwing stuff around the office.
I’m not ready to completely toss best practices out the window. I would say, like everything else we consider doing, they need to be evaluated on their merits and implemented with corporate culture in mind. So what do you think? Are best practices still a viable way of sharing ideas for workplace culture? Or is it time to retire the old chestnut?
Image courtesy of svensonsan1