Does your company use Best Practices? Do you use them in your personal life? How about ways to “get things done?” If so, just where did they come from? Whose Best Practices are they? Who is to say that they are the “Best Practices” for your company or situation?
“Best Practices” are one of the most overused words in business. The theory behind them is sound: identify the best way of doing a given task, then spread that knowledge so that all instances of this task can be optimized. It is a good idea, and I highly recommend it. I recommend, however, that you think carefully about these pitfalls before adopting any given Best Practice:
1) Never assume the “industry” is smarter than you are. It is just possible that the “Best Practice” of the rest of the industry is one of the differences between your company and everyone else that gives you a competitive advantage!
2) Never assume that the Best Practices of others apply to your unique business model. Many people write “Best Practices” and distribute them online or through print, but these folks often do not know your business model. They are speaking based on the business models that they are familiar with.
3) Never assume that the Best Practice you have adopted is the best there will ever be. Implementing a policy of using Best Practices is a perpetual cycle of improvement and change. Whenever a new idea appears, always hear it out and weigh it against what you do today.
Amazingly enough, project management, IT and in particular IT Security are the most succeptible groups to adopting the Best Practices of others. Consider security as an example: if your data is protected the same way that everyone else’s is, then all a criminal has to do is find a security exploit for one company, and they have the keys to everyone’s doors. Never be satisfied with just “what everyone else says is best”.
Best Practices are indeed a very good idea in any business. Never forget this rule, though: If you do things the same way that everyone else does, the only difference is the people performing the task. You are betting that your people are better than the next guy, and that they always will be. Your people are fluid, though; they get promoted, hired away, burn out, sometimes they even retire. Don’t be satisfied. Innovate. Improve your processes every day. Never stop looking for a better way.