I can’t recall when in my professional life I first came across the term “best practice”. I know it was quite a long time ago and I’ve never really questioned it as a concept or ideal at any time since.
Like most people, I subscribe to many email newsletters. Mostly I quickly scan article headlines and save the interesting ones to read another time (which frankly is often weeks after I “file” it). This morning though, I spotted one such headline that stopped me in my tracks.
“Best Practices are Dead” it said. It was written by Tom Puthiyamadam, a principal with PwC in New York. While the key focus was on IT and digital transformation, it got me thinking about the pursuit of best practice more broadly.
During my years working in the corporate world, there was no shortage of the use of the term across every functional area you could name. Finance and Admin, HR, IT, Facilities Management…you name it. Everyone had a go at identifying “best practices” they could apply to their world. I’m also pretty sure that in at least one organisation there was a specific job role dedicated to the task. It’s clear to me now that it was all a bit misguided.
Here’s the thing. By definition, the “best” of anything only has a limited lifespan until someone comes up with a “better” practice that, again by definition, becomes “best”. I think the point is clear.
Far more important is a focus on “right practice”.
If you’re clear about your business purpose, vision and strategy you’re less likely to be distracted by the latest and greatest shiny new toy that promises so much but often disappoints. Likewise, your team will be more productive and likely more engaged than if they’re constantly changing processes and practices.
None of that means you shouldn’t stay up to date with developments that could make your business more effective. To ignore change is to eventually wither and die. But you don’t have to become a slave to chasing “best practice”.