Why “Best Practices” Aren’t Good For Your Business

When we’re young and inexperienced, we learn from watching others. Sometimes, there’s so much to pick up that we don’t ask questions about why something is done a certain way, we just accept that the most used practice is the best. This method is ideal when we’re learning to read or to ride a bicycle, but in business it often falls short of the desired outcome. This is because the business world is constantly evolving, so the problems faced when the “best practice” was conceived are not the problems faced when it is put in motion years later.

This is perhaps best explained via allegory: there was a woman who, whenever she cooked roast, would cut the ends off. When her husband asked why she did it, she said she didn’t know, it was how her father cooked roast, and his was delicious. When questioned by his daughter, the woman’s father said he didn’t know why he did it, it was what his mother always did. When the woman asked her grandmother, the grandmother laughed and said that she cut the ends off because her roast pan was too small to fit the whole roast. While in this story, the miscommunication is cute, in business it can be hugely detrimental. If we don’t question why we do things in a certain way, we’ll never progress to meet new challenges and create new and innovative solutions.

The best way to do this is to encourage your employees and management both to ask questions of why standard practices are “standard”. If your corporate culture embraces thoughtful questioning, you’ll have the most informed and independent workforce around. Encourage them to identify problems themselves, and then to think through the solutions before you give them your “best practice” answer – their solutions might be faster, more rounded, or might address the problem from a different angle that works better for the company. The bottom line is, when you trust your employees enough to allow them to question your standard operating procedures, you might be surprised with the answers they come up with, and both you and your company will benefit.