“Best Practices” Are Often Fool’s Gold

June 8, 2015

It’s hard to attend a business meeting these days without the term “best practices” being bandied about. Best practices in social media. Best practices in cyber security. Best practices in performance management. If it’s a hot topic, chances are someone has figured out the current “best” way to do it.

On the surface it’s hard to disagree with the idea of best practices. Pre-packaged answers to the struggles you’re facing. Very alluring.

The trouble is the package is never really right for anyone but the people who packaged it. They had a different set of issues that drove their choices. Or they had a different set of professionals who could implement them. Or they had different goals. Or different risks. Or a different level of commitment.

And these differences rarely make it clearly into the description of best practices. Largely because the people who package them are concerned about their organization, not yours. And it’s just really hard to identify the full context in which the practices will and won’t work.

Take best practices for what they are. Helpful guidance, never clear answers. You still have to do the hard work to define the best practices for your organization