I still regularly hear people talk about best practice; best practice in management, best practice in medicine, best practice in motor racing, best practice in cafés, best practice in bars. All I know is that ‘best practice’ doesn’t exist. It’s just a buzzword that gets everyone excited and allows some people to believe in the illusion that somehow what they are doing is, if not perfect, then at least ‘best’.

As the director of professional development at the PMI, Stéphane De Vroey, recently said to me, ‘Harley, there is no best practice, only better practice’. I like that. I believe businesses should be constantly looking to improve and never kid themselves into thinking that they have arrived.

Another problem with ‘best practice’ is that it can encourage people to try to constantly improve a process that has already been improved over and over again. So much so that they can miss the fact that just perhaps, it can be done in a radically different way, or even better, not at all!

An example of this happened to me recently when I asked my business partner how I could improve my home office filing system. I was finding it too time consuming, cumbersome and complex (and besides I was running out of shelf space). I have been filing my precious documents in neat Esselte files, since I don’t know when. Each one colour coded and with a hand written description on its spine. Inside, the documents were neatly encased in plastic sleeves and divided into groups with alphabetical separators. And then everything was neatly held in place with a shiny metal clip.

My Partner’s advice was both clear and radical. ‘Don’t file them at all, just run them through a scanner and let technology do the work’. ‘But what about my originals’? I asked. ‘If you must’ was his reply ‘put everything you scan in a cardboard box and once the box is full, store it away in the attic. (I know, as well as he, from experience, that the chances of a document ever being needed after a few months is extremely small, and even if one ever was, it wouldn’t be difficult to find because they would all be, more or less, in date order).

I don’t know why I was so surprised by his reply, because today technology can do wonders. It can park my car, cut the grass, read the paper, do the washing up and now, even make complex document classification decisions.

So my advice is, if you think your processes are best practice, you might need to think again. After all what’s better than a perfect process? – Answer: No process at all!

Have a good week,

Harley