Thursday, September 18, 2008

Best Practices - like everybody does it?

In a recent Dilbert comic strip the much cited protagonist replies to his boss: "If everybody is doing it, Best Practices is the same thing as mediocre"

Made me think...



Anonymous said...

You're making a good point, Michael, highlighting that topic.
But I think it's not an argument against Best Practices. It should make us aware of how to deal with them.

There are two aspects hidden in that sentence you cited:

"... everybody is doing it ..." points on the timing when to adopt Best Practices. I'm pretty sure that even when a topic has past all phases of the hype cycle that there will remain a significant number of managers or even companies ignoring it. So, "everybody" is definitly the wrong word at that position, but it shows us that the point-haired-boss is one of the last ones who (has to) deal with an issue which has already become Best Practice.

"... the same thing as mediocre" is a simple statistical effect. If Best Practices lead to different quality and everyone is doing it, the level of mediocrity will follow. So if specific Best Practices show advantages, it's better to follow them then to stay at the old mediocrity. You have to know your current position and if you're already mediocre or maybe not even that. On the other hand, if you're ahead of the crowd but your advantages become common sense, you shouldn't stop doing what you do, just to not follow Best Practices.

The problem arises when those pointy-haired-bosses just follow something someone told them without analysing and reflecting or even understanding it and only if they're forced to do so or they see no other opportunity to act. Subsequently they will do everything wrong while trying to implement something they don't have a clue about.

My advice: Do not ignore Best Practices just because of that buzz word attached to them. If you already know the advices they give, even better, but if not, you should deal with the news and form yourself an oppinion.

Michael Mahlberg said...

@udo: not quite my point of view - As Mark Twain once said: "Whenever I find myself on the side of majority it's time to pause and reflect"...
And the term "Best Practices" is still a bit of a misnomer. (best = above average)
And "one more thing": If you keep doing the things that gave you a competitive advantage in an unchanged manner even if everybody else catches up you lose your advantage. You'd need to evolve your own practices to keep ahead.

Michael Mahlberg said...

After another discussion about this topic I got the feeling I need to clarify one thing:
I don't think that it's a good idea to refrain from using best practices - I only don't believe that Best Practices can be what everybody does.