Wednesday, August 30, 2006

“Best Practices” – Defined Usefully? [TLT-SWG-25]

Context: Early today I was arguing with myself that we should NOT claim that our online workshops offer “Best Practices.”

Problem: “Best Practices” is a term implying a level of certainty and ease of comparison unlikely to be achieved in most human endeavor – except by those who oversimplify or cannot perceive the full complexity of their surroundings.

Solution? Define the term “best practices” as: using reasonable standards of effectiveness and efficiency, adopting widely accepted research and evaluation procedures, and pursuing continual, incremental improvement… while acknowledging the legitimate value of experience, observation, and judgment.

Conflicting Views?

  • “Best practices are defined as strategies, activities, or approaches that have been shown through research and evaluation to be effective and/or efficient.”
    - Fla. Dept. of Educ. http://www.fldoe.org/cc/Retention/
  • “…Best practice is a management idea, now out of favour, which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc…”
    - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_practice

MORE DEFINITIONS OF "BEST PRACTICES"

A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result. A commitment to using the best practices in any field is a commitment to using all the knowledge and technology at one's disposal to ensure success. The term is used frequently in the fields of health care, government administration, the education system, project management, hardware and software product development, and elsewhere.

In software development, a best practice is a well-defined method that contributes to a successful step in product development.

- Whatis.com http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,289893,sid9_gci498678,00.html

Best practice is a management idea, now out of favour, which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc.

However, the notion of a best practice is not new. Frederick Taylor said as much nearly 100 years ago. “Among the various methods and implements used in each element of each trade there is always one method and one implement which is quicker and better than any of the rest.” This viewpoint came to be known as the one best way. In modern parlance, best practice.

History, however, is filled with examples of people who were unwilling to accept the industry standard as the best way to do anything. The rate of enormous technological change over the past century bears witness to this fact.

The Japanese word kaizen has been imported into Western organizational language and stresses the importance of efforts to improve constantly. This ethos is antithetical to the commonly accepted notions of best practice. In fact, best practice can breed a complacent attitude. Some organizations wear it as a badge of honor, believing that having adopted this technique, method or process that a particular organizational problem has been solved and no further improvements are necessary. But, in reality, best practice could be nothing more than mediocrity in a different context, a form of unplanned obsolescence.

- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_practice

A management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a project can be rolled out and completed with fewer problems and unforseen complications.

In real-world application, Best Practice, is a very useful concept. Despite the need to improve on processes as times change and things evolve, Best Practice, is considered by some to be a business buzz word used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things which multiple organisations can utilise for management, policy, and especially software systems.

The notion of 'best practices' does not commit people or companies to one inflexible, unchanging practice. Instead, Best Practices is a philosophical approach based around continuous learning and continual improvement.

- ManagementGlossary.info. http://managementglossary.info/index.php?a=term&d=1&q=Best+Practice&gclid=CO2WpfPLh4cCFSBYSAodvgrLrw

1 comment:

  1. It's important to note that "best practices" ends in 's'. So it is the "best" examples of "practices" -- a.k.a. better practices, or at the very most the best examples available from each of a number of unspecified categories. So the term is essentially self-contradictory, and the word "best" is not to be taken too seriously. That raises a different problem, however: that this term is borrowed from the world of management consulting, where marketing-speak is the rule and sincerity and authenticity often take a back seat. Although adopting this term in education happened decades ago and it seems useful, it is helpful to examine such imports critically. I fear marketers, even bearing gift words.

    ReplyDelete

What do you think?