Best practices are not the best at all!

I sometimes get tired of listening to people talk about best-practices, and today is one of those days!

Deming a long time ago started pitching the idea of continuous improvement, back when the Japanese were the only ones willing to listen to him. In his now famous “plan-do-study-act” cycle (PDSA) he popularized the feedback and learn-by-reflection tools. In this cycle he introduces the importance of implementing your plan (not becoming afflicted with analysis paralysis) and then studying it to see what needs to be improved. This is the core of improvement: implement something, and learn from failures (missed schedules, missed sales, etc.) and successes!

Best practice as a concept is an oxymoron with the PDSA cycle and the continuous improvement concept. Best practices assume you know exactly what applies to all or a large class of situations that may have nothing else in common except the environment! A good example of this Best practice disease syndrome is when you are making decisions based on what others have done and learned but not implementing it based what your environment is and what you can learn from it.

By all means read about best practices, but use your brain and adapt the practices to your environment/restrictions. Best practices are only the best for those that applied them first, for you they should be just suggested practices.

Once you have applied the suggested practices, study their effects and learn from them. If you don’t improve, you will be left behind. Look what happened to Toyota’s non-Japanese competitors

OK, I confess there’s one best practice I use constantly, but that’s called “Learning”! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Best practices are not the best at all!

  1. I don’t think there is a conflict between the concept of “continuous improvement” and the concept of “best practice.”

    Problems occur when people start to think that “best practice” actually means “best possible practice, ever.”

    As long as we keep in mind that “best practice” means “best practice we know of so far,” then the opportunity remains open for us to discover better practices (which will hold the title of “best practice” in their turn, until someone discovers better ones, etc.).

  2. You are right in the first paragraph. But the danger with the “best practices” is not only people thinking “best possible practive ever“.

    The bigger problem is that people tend to apply “best practices” even when they don’t fit their context. Context is everything with practices. Best practices should be considered merely “suggested practices”. It’s always up to us to see if they fit.

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