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March 15, 2022

The Case Against Best Practices

By Dominica Degrandis

To the disgruntlement of some people, I have been skeptical of best practices since I was first exposed to the idea. But now more than ever, I fear that teams strive to implement and follow best practices in situations where novel ideas are needed instead.

The assumption that published works are the correct approach to take is an interesting topic. I acknowledge the irony of this statement given I have suggested practices and guidance in my book.

It’s just that people seem to read things and assume or accept it as a best practice. But best practice is a misnomer. I suggest a reframe. Remove (or judiciously reduce the use) of the term “best practice” from conversations about what to do.

My book Making Work Visible offers good practices. Don’t think of them as best practices that are never to be improved upon; think of them as optional tools available in your toolkit. Recognize that best practices are frequently usurped by better emerging practices. Because of rapid technical and process change and the need to evolve, your organization’s best practice may not be a best practice for very long.

One of the best skills you can have going forward is learning how to keep pace with an ever-moving edge. We need diversity of thought and different ways of working. If we get caught up in the idea that there is a best practice—a perfect way of doing things—then we risk branding fresh perspectives or improvements as inherently flawed ideas.

This is problematic in a period of time when things are changing so rapidly and we don’t always know the effects or causes that occur. Creativity occurs at the edges. Looking at problems from the fringes of recognizable boundaries with new and novel ideas can be helpful for organizations looking to innovate and to experiment.

I am blessed to have such a person on my team. They refreshingly introduce me to new ideas and concepts, which are met with much enthusiasm. It’s important for varied thoughts and different perspectives to be heard as acceptable ideas for consideration. It’s a good thing when people have energy and passion for new and novel ideas because 100% investment in one area is risky business.

Consider the necessity for those working on the edge with different opinions and ideas to occur. Nip the assumption in the bud that if it’s not a best practice, it’s bad. Practices are always changing. We don’t live in a static world. Call them “today’s practice” or “this week’s practice” or our “2022 practice,” anything but best practice.

This post was excerpted from the second edition of Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow by Dominica DeGrandis.


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Dominica Degrandis

Author of Making Work Visible

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