I hate corporate-speak and i’ll be writing a full post about that at some point but I take particular exception to the term
So your boss tells you that a consultant is coming in. What will he be teaching us you ask?
Who wouldn’t buy that service?
But there are a few problems with this term.
First off, even if you can identify what are the “Best Practices” for a particular industry, service or profession— whatever those practices are— they are quickly obsolete. That consultant mentioned earlier could simply come back every year and say:
Hey remember those practices I sold you last year? Those are still pretty good but are nothing compared to this new shit i’ve got.
Best practices for writing a business letter in 1970 were probably to use a top of the line IBM Typewriter with high quality paper. In 1980 it was to use a word processor. In the 1990′s a PC with some janky software like Word Perfect or Lotus Notes. And so on.
The same goes for business advice. If you want to see a national repository of bad business advice from a bygone time, go to a call, sales or customer service center in the Philippines. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of business, sales and customer service knowledge in the Philippines is leftovers or has roots in the information from the time when outsourcing to the islands really exploded and expert consultants were hired.
The problems with believing that the nebulous concept of “Best Practices” is actually concrete, evergreen advice will help your company to become quickly stagnant and dogmatic.
It A Stupid Term, But Yet Difficult To Argue Against
Imagine a meeting between a few VPs and their underlings. The VP of Human Resources is talking about the need to document, review and train for “Best Practices”. Imagine trying to argue against that.
Well, Richard, if you’re only in favor of Worst or Mediocre practices I don’t think you share our “commitment to excellence”.
While Richard could argue that “Best Practices” is just inane corporate-speak, what would he replace it with? It might be something like this:
I suggest that we hire the best candidates and have them remain updated on the latest innovations and ideas in their respective professions. This includes some time and resources for continuing education, personal research, reporting and the maintenance of some sort of knowledge base or wiki which basically outlines what they do and how they do it. Systemic problems are usually obvious and difficult to hide. If we make discovering and fixing those problems (and updating the knowledge base) a personal task and not a task for management or consultants I think this is a far better way of improving the moving parts of the company than just following some prescribed methods which are educated yet contextless advice at best and will give us a false sense of security and certain to be outmoded in short time.
Saying something like this would have every drone in the room staring at you and ultimately, they would all just say:
I like the HR VP’s best practices idea better.
A simpler type of argument could be:
- If Google followed Search Engine company best practices written by Yahoo and Altavista where would they be now?
- If Apple followed Hardware Design Best Practices pioneered by the authority IBM where would they be?
I’m sure you have more specific examples within your profession or industry. If you know someone who uses the term “Best Practices” a lot, jokingly send them this page and write “wow this guy is a total idiot about best practices.. lol..”. It might embarass that person into never using that term again, or it might get you an HR meeting to discuss inter-office emailing best practices.