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Leadership

Could following best practices be the worst practice?

I’m yet to see a company put out a statement saying, “here, take our blueprint to success. Use it, and we will see you on the other side.” I’m pretty sure you haven’t either.

Almost all best practices have an inherent challenge — they’re all based on personal observations or conclusions derived from assumptions. And I don’t know how people can state anything as a best practice if they haven’t tried it themselves! That sure doesn’t sound “scientific” or well-thought-out by any measure. Yet, nobody seems to be asking the hard questions — how did these practices come about or what’s the reason they continue to be followed to this day?

On the rare instance, we see someone who’s worked at one of the successful companies (unicorns or perhaps the ones in the Fortune 500 list) these successful companies put out something worth reading, studying, and adopting.

For the most part, best practices are based on successful companies, say the ones in the Fortune 100 list, that are gigantic by all measures — success, workforce, cash reserve, growth metrics, and whatnot. What makes us think that some practice that worked for a 20,000-people company will work for our firm with 20?

One company’s best practice doesn’t mean it’s going to work for others. Heck, would you think your own company’s best practices when it had five people would work with 20 onboard now? It won’t. Period.

Of course, not all best practices are wrong. Every year hundreds of academicians put out substantial research on some best way that can be fundamentally game-changing. But I think they’re all great starting points or templates/frameworks to build an even better product or service.

Any practice that a company embraces has to business relevant. So, the goals and objectives matter more than blindly accepting a random business practice. Doing so implies that there’s a single answer to your business challenges. And that sort of thinking is far too short-sighted to be effective, even if you haven’t a business practise that’s been the world’s best-kept secret!

One of the approaches that I like is stupid simple — gather a bunch of business practices, experiment, find what works for you, and discard the rest. That’s how you find and create your practice. It doesn’t matter if the approach works for others. Suppose it works for you, great! If it doesn’t, well, keep working at it until you create one that works.