Mark Gould has a discussion of "best practice" in his Transplanting practices between organisations, which is itself a comment on a post from Tom Young of Knoco. There is the familiar watch-out on the idea of best practice:
The problem that I have with much of the ‘best practice’ discourse is that it often strays into assertions or assumptions that such practices can readily be transplanted. However, like the law, such transplants will often be rejected.
Mark's discussion covers a number of topics, but I enjoyed his deeper thinking about what a best practice is and how organizations use them - or don't. The original example from Tom Young is of an exercise they do where people try to solve a problem. The default mode of operation for many people is to start from their own experience - they miss the opportunity to seek outside help. But when they are given examples of how other people solved the problem, they always come up with better solutions.
This description should be eye-opening for many organizations. Why? Because most organizations haven't embedded learning from the past in their regular processes. Sure, some people are naturally good at seeking this input, but if the organizational culture doesn't drive this behavior, then it just won't become terribly widespread. And with that, it's difficult to imagine improving the solutions offered by the business. It doesn't help that people are usually too overloaded to step back and think about doing things differently, as mentioned previously.
So what to do? Looking at the current good examples and asking the simple question, can this be done another way? Would it be worthwhile to find a different way to do this? The answer doesn't always have to be yes, but it should be asked.
Mark's comment about the law above relates to an approach to this that the legal profession takes. In legal circles, there is heavy use of precedent in understanding the law and how to apply it in specific situations. Precedents acts as examples and "best practice" when no law could be written to cover absolutely every situation. Lawyers and judges have to look to how others have applied the law in similar cases. (I note that this is how I learned computer programming: on the backs of examples from other people.)
[Photo: ".....practice cake" by Simply Happy.]