What is ‘best practice’? When you say that something is best practice, what does this actually mean and can these words have the same meaning to all? And how do we know when we have achieved ‘best practice’?
There’s no doubt that practice makes you better but – depending on the context – sometimes a practice is ‘best’ and sometimes it’s not. Calling something a best practice implies that it’s a good idea all of the time, something we inherently know to be false. There is no practice that is better than all other possible practices regardless of context, and there’s inherent risk in applying a methodology or structure verbatim because it worked for someone else or because we’re told that’s what best practice looks like.
What does ‘right’ mean for you?
Ideally, we shouldn’t talk about ’best practice’ at all but instead should talk about ‘right practice’. We should be putting the emphasis on what is the ‘right fit’ for our organisation. Organisations should adopt approaches that best meet their needs, then those approaches can be tailored accordingly. The benefit of developing your own approach is that you can accommodate the organisational culture and determine what is appropriate for your organisation at a given point in time.
We may not always get things right and there may be some ‘one step forward, two steps back’ moments … but that’s OK as long as we are learning and applying the lessons to make improvements. When we stop insisting on rigid conformity, it allows the flexibility to determine what ‘right’ means for us and to ensure we are adding tangible value we need to put our own spin on how to achieve results.
Instead of slavishly applying the latest approach because someone declared that it is ‘best practice’, we should instead strive to keep getting better by accepting where we are right now, where we want to be in the future and what we can do to keep improving.
Lloyd Dobson, Fiona Henderson & Kaylene Sterry will be speaking on Employing a philosophy of right practice, not best practice at the Public Sector PMO Leadership conference in Canberra next March. Book your place by December 2nd to save $500 on ticket prices.