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The Dangers of Best Practices

Best practices are infinitely discussed and always seem to provide an answer on how to be more successful. But what if you found out they were not so great? In a post for the Association for Project Management, Alistair Godbold elaborates on some of the dangers of hugging best practices too tightly.

Best practices come in many shapes and sizes from methods to standards, and they may be sponsored by a variety of entities. Best practices can also be synonymous with a successful project or operation. At its roots, best practices describe practices that successful organizations with great reputations have implemented. They help to propel projects forward and are a platform for collaborative efforts among organizations within the same industry.

People seek to use these practices because they want to keep up with the Jones. They want to prove to their customers that they can do everything the best they can, and maybe do it even better. Sometimes organizations will implement them so they have a scapegoat if things go awry.

The problem with these practices is that there is no such thing as the “best,” and no technique will work perfectly across an entire industry. Best practices should be examples to learn how to develop rather than something to follow verbatim. Following them explicitly can cause people to not think for themselves, create a limit of how well someone can do, and do not always directly apply to the problem being faced. Problem-solving is about people making judgments, and if people begin blindly replicating things, they will lose their understanding of the context they are operating in.

What should be used are good practices–exemplary techniques of success that translated well for an organization. Modeling behavior after good practices will help to ensure the continuous development of the team and their judgment skills.

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About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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