The best, practice

Clark Quinn wrote about the speed of thought the other day. One of his observations is that business should move at the speed of thought — and that thought actually moves much slower than electrons.

We need to not rush to make decisions, but be willing to allow the time to make a good decision. And that’s contrary to much of management practice and organizational culture. I remember several years ago when we were pushing quite strongly on meta-learning, the push back was that “we don’t have time for reflection�. That has got to change for organizations that want to persist and succeed.

This got me thinking about best practices — or, worse, Best Practices. I hate seeing that phrase with capital letters; they’re a sure sign of trouble (or of sloganeering).


I suppose that best practices sometimes are silver bullets, exactly what an organization needs to overcome some grisly problem.

More often, they’re like those magic beans that Jack traded his cow for. He had no idea what the magic was, and he had no idea where the beanstalk would lead.

As I commented on Clark’s blog, many people act as though the Church of Best Practice is only open on Sundays. They treat the concept as a quick search for something that apparently guaranteed success in another setting. Then they drag it, often against its will, into an alien environment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t search for people who’ve grappled with problems and one. I believe firmly that good judgment comes from experience and that experience comes from bad judgment. And I also believe it doesn’t have to be your bad judgment.

It’s hard to know in advance if your judgment’s good or not, though. All the more reason to be mindful as you work, and reflective afterward. Pay attention to what you’re doing and to what you’ve done. If you don’t examine what you’ve been doing and how it compares with what you wanted to accomplish, your practice is unlikely to reach the “best” stage.

As Jim Fuller said once, practice without feedback doesn’t make perfect; it just makes permanent.

Or, as it says outside the Church of Best Practice:

Before it was best, it was practiced.

Church parking lot photo by lancea / Lance Andrewes