Best practices are like vampires that can suck an organization of productivity, drain its creativity, and bleed its initiative.
I’ve helped IT departments from automobile manufacturing companies merge. I’ve also helped banks and Internet companies merge. In all cases, I watched people who were, weeks before, like many other of their species, seeking best practices, encounter the truth of their existence. Everybody has best practices and if you compare two of them, superficial similarity soon gives way to contextual and temporal divergences. Both sides of the merger had dozens of best practices on everything from server management to customer acquisition. The harsh light the merger exposed best practices as a source potential conflict and dysfunction–and those who crafted the best practices realized they were vampires of learning, imbibing hopes for productivity gains and consistency while draining their organizations of creativity and initiative.
The Thirst No matter how many fleshy necks of policy or procedure they sink their teeth into, they just can’t get enough. Interview after interview. Flowchart after flow chart. It won’t stop. They don’t know enough. They don’t have enough data. They have too many perspectives to reconcile. They keep digging until their fingernails bleed. No matter how much they learn, they keep seeking more of the same, with each dip into the artery of knowledge nearly the same as the last. The focus keeps them going, but they have lost the ability to synthesize and integrate, to reach beyond the task to see the bigger picture.
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.
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