‘Best practice’ is a lie…and boring

Holy Grail
Image Credit: drp

Best practice is a lie; but if true, best practice is boring. What is best for any situation depends on many factors within the context.

Once all factors are established and certain, sure, I’ll submit to best practices existing. If the stakeholders, time, place, operating environment, leadership, and what people had for breakfast that morning are all set, I’m sure best practices could be identified. But then the world would be solved and we’d all be drones with exact plans of action for any scenario.

But otherwise, there is no best practice, only good practice.

Good practice depends on good leadership

Can the leader inspire a shared vision around the good practice? Can they motivate and encourage creativity around the practice? Can the model the good practice rather than just preaching it?

Good practice depends on stakeholders and place

Every community is unique. Every organization is unique. Every individual is unique. The uniqueness lies within history, interrelationships, culture, social norms. Best practice is not an ointment to be applied as directed in the instructions on the tube.

Good practice depends on the external operating environment

What works in boom times doesn’t always work in a recession. What works in times of emergency doesn’t work in time of peace. What’s going on in society – are people leaning left or right, looking out for themselves or others, recycling or wasting, etc. etc. Even so, I would say (of the top of my head without any direct evidence) that what often exists as a norm today came out of something radical and “bad” practice in the past.

In closing…

Best practices in one specific context can be useful beyond that context. They can give you ideas. They can build the literature around principles of good practice. They help with community, organizational, or individual praxis. But they aren’t a holy grail.

5 comments:

  1. Anyone who has ever taken the CAE exam knows that Best Practices are what you study to pass the test – not what you do in real life :) Thank you for t this on target post!

  2. Hi Trina. Not sure I completely agree; in certain instances, ‘best’ practice certainly can and does apply. But you definitely got me to thinking about what those instances are – thanks for that!

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