Whatever happened to best practices?

April 2007 Quick Tip

The other day I read a funeral announcement for best practices. This is sad. I hadn’t seen best practices around much lately and wondered if they were feeling ill. I guess they passed quietly.

Best practices came from a bygone era of benchmarking and business process reengineering, of pioneers searching for a promised land where there is One Best Way to develop a product.

Today we view the world as being more complex. What is best probably differs from time to time. Each project has its own unique needs, so it needs a unique blend of approaches suited to it. Boehm and Turner in their book Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed (see page 4) show us how to create these blends.

Of course, if you wish to move beyond the era of the One Best Way, your process will need regular monitoring as you adapt it to new situations. Here again, we have made great progress since the Stone Age when processes were chiseled on tablets. Today we’ve moved beyond postmortems to retrospectives, where Derby and Larsen in their book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great show us how to improve processes as we go rather than waiting until the project is all over, thus too late to improve anything.

You may have noticed that all three links above point to software development sources. Many of these techniques can be re-interpreted for other kinds of products, which is the topic of my forthcoming book, Flexible Product Development.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.