Friday, April 9, 2010

Forget about copying best practices

By the time a best practice has been transferred from one company to another, it's most likely no longer a "best" practice. In a static world maybe, but not in the world we live in. At best, it will be a "great" practice, but more likely it will just be a "good" practice. And as it is transferred to more and more companies, it will eventually turn into a "common" practice, which can mean anything from great to bad - it's just something a lot of companies use. Some companies seem to satisfied with that, but they really shouldn't. Why settle for anything less than the best?

Companies that offer best practices to customers are trying to sell something that can't deliver what it promises. The dilemma is, of course, that most customers won't pay that much for something that is labeled as just "great" or "good".They expect "the best", and best practices promises just that. They promise exclusiveness, something unique. But a copy of something is not either exclusive or unique. It's just a copy.

If you are looking for best practices, then you should try to develop these best practices yourself. You sure need to study the practices of other companies, and you might need to turn to someone who has the skills and experiences which are needed. But don't ever expect that you can buy a best practice off-the-shelf as if it was a commodity. It's not that easy to become the best at something.

So, go look for inspiration and help if you need to, but try to forget about copying best practices.


  1. This post hits right on the spot. Time and again we have come across the "big" consulting firms trying to use standard "best practise" templates that flat out fail in delivering the promise.

    If you are working with a complex and new system, you would want to hire the experts to share their best practise and build the methodologies and processes that are best for you

  2. At last we can break the 'best practice' bubble as there is really no such thing - if you try to replicate the practice in a different context, guess what? it fails!

    congratulations for raising this issue and let's continue to find our own 'good practice' that supports our own environment and conditions.


  3. Have added this link to the Lenscraft Next Practice group on Linked-In.

  4. Sorry to be a naysayer, but this is utterly ridiculous.

    A "practice" doesn't diminish in value or goodness merely because time passes - it's not some kind of food that goes stale. And yes, you'll need to keep up-to-date with changes as technology changes, just like everything else.

    I'm not sure where the idea that someone buying "best practices" is expecting something exclusive or unique. That's equally ridiculous - it's obvious that any "best practice" will be something developed by experience, meaning that someone else has already gone through the pain.

    The alternative being proposed is to have every company completely reinvent the wheel - NIH at it's most grotesque.

    It would be far better to learn from the experience from others (i.e., best practice) and use that as your starting point. You can save yourself all of the headaches that others have already gone through, and then further evolve the "practices" as best suits your own environment.

    Those selling "best practices" are selling their experience and expertise. Considering that each business will have to implement something for the first time only once, it's quite reasonable to realize that they won't be experts at doing such an implementation.

    A business that assists customers who are doing first-time implementations will most likely have re-usable implementation practices which can save much time and money for their customers. These will be their "best practices," and they will have value to those looking to invest in them.

  5. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your answer.

    Though, I suggest that you read my post again. If you had spent as much time reading the post as writing your comment, I am sure you would have understood the point I was trying to make.

    I am obviously not arguing against reusing knowledge and experience, but rather against how that reuse is labeled and how it creates an illusion of a commodity. There are certainly good and even great practices (I personally prefer to talk about patterns) that enterprises can learn from. But the term "best practice" easily creates an illusion that you can buy a "the best" practice as if it was a commodity and as if it will fit 100% into the business context which it will be applied.