Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are best practices "best"?

"Creativity requires letting differences make a difference"
Stanley Deetz

My take: Mr Deetz is profoundly obvious.

But as many have warned, in the zeal to adopt best practices and accepted principles in the pursuit of productivity, efficiency, and global competitiveness, sometimes an over-rigidity sets in, wiping out the differences, thereby reducing creativity to "me too, with immaterial differences"

In the world of Kano Analysis, this is a "decay" from 'ah-hah!' to 'must not be missing'.

Remember when cars didn't have cup holders? Hey, this is important stuff! Once cup holders reach a tipping point, everybody expects cup holders. (I'm frustrated my new car does not turn off the headlights automatically, something my 8-year old Explorer does easily)

So, if it's a best practice to do something in one methodology or culture or situation, is it always a best practice? Well, if it's cup holders, perhaps yes (you can throw in the headlights control also), but if it's project methods and practices, then you've got all the non-linearities of people; cognitive biases of the sponsors; and the complexities of new and untested situations. "Best" does not always port well

In fact, "best" may be poor and there may well be something more appropriate. The issue for the PM is having the flexibility and the authority to invent. Principles of subsidiarity, in other words, should apply. "Do only that which you alone must do" is the watch word. Let others discriminate and find the differences that make a difference.