Despite what they are called, best practices are not always so. Many managers have encountered occasions when their organization's prescribed rules would cause more harm than good.
Example. Your personnel department spells out a procedure for resolving a personal dispute between two co-workers. Great, except the process takes two meetings and four hours of administrivia, while you know from your own experience with these people that what will really work is an off-the-record airing of grievances over a couple of beers down at Duck's Tavern. (The Beer Gambit was used to famous effect by President Obama to cool a dispute between a Harvard professor and a local police officer.)
Your personnel department may not agree, but I say trust your gut and head down to Duck's and see what happens.
How can you tell when its OK not to follow the 'best' path?
Harvard Business blogger Susan Cramm offers this three-step filter.
- Consider the context. Best practices work for a particular organization in a particular market at a particular time. Always adapt best practices to fit your company's unique culture and situation.
- Assess feasibility. The "best" may be expensive and time-consuming. Determine whether being the best is worth it. Will the customer pay for it? Will you have the time or energy to achieve it?
- Use common sense. Sometimes best practices just don't make sense. Just because someone labeled it "best" doesn't mean it is. Think critically and strategically before using any best practice.
If you do choose to alter, modify or ignore a best practice, I think it's important to share that information with the organization. Best practices remain best only if they are useful.
How do you employ (or not) best practices at work?