Saturday, 24 October 2015

The "Lord Wessex Effect" and Best Practice

People always say they want 'Best Practice'. After all, why do things any other way? Why settle for something that is second best - or maybe not even that?

Leaving aside any legal ramifications ('Good Practice', 'Leading Practice' etc) the conversation often goes like this:

"What is the Best Practice in this situation?"
"Well, you do A, then B, get rid of C and do D"
"Ah - we don't want to do that. What other Best Practice do you have?"

or alternatively:

"We do A then E, keep C and then do F. We think that should be the Best Practice - why do you not agree?"

I refer to this as the "Lord Wessex Effect", inspired by Brian Blessed as the king in the first series of Blackadder:

To paraphrase:

Messenger: "My Lord, news: Lord Wessex is dead!"
King: "I like not this news, bring me other news!"
Messenger (thinks first then): "My Lord, news: Lord Wessex is not dead!"
King: "Hoorah! Let there be rejoicing over this good news!"

So why does this happen? Some thoughts:

  • "Industry Best Practice" may be expensive, time consuming or disruptive - the benefits may not be worth the outlay
  • "Best Practice" in one area may clash with other standards or practices you use - this is not unusual.
  • There can be a number of opinions over what "Best Practice" actually is - again, this is not unusual.
  • If "Best Practice" tells you to stop doing what you've been doing (even successfully) for a long time, this might not be what you want to hear.

So what to do?

  • Look at what the best practice is considered to be (and compare if there are multiple claims) and find out why this is 'Best Practice'.
  • Ensure you're clear as to why this practice is better than other approaches. Ask what the alternatives are and what the downsides of those would be.
  • Ensure that the practice will work for you, with your team, in your organisation. What are the benefits to you?
  • Ensure that it's worth your time and effort to implement. How long will it take to show improvements?
There is a very easy car analogy here: Which is the 'Best' car on the market today? If you have a limited budget, a Ferrari might not best for you. Even if you have the budget, what if you have  four children? Or need to carry two dogs? Or a lot of luggage? Or fit it in a really narrow garage?

Even if you think that what you already have should be Best Practice, but others do not agree, find out why.

There are usually reasons why it's not preferred for everyone - but that doesn't mean it's not working really well for you: that's often a better result that being able to tick the 'Best Practice' checkbox.

1 comment:

  1. I heard a comment on this from a co-worker: "If someone doesn't want the best practice, does that mean that they want to consider the 2nd best practice?" it was funny at first, but it's actually a good point. You might want to provide 5-star food in your company restaurant but 3 star is perfectly fine. 2nd best practice is still an awful lot better than bad practice!