Finally, a description for ‘best practice’ I can live with

I’ve written before about my ambivalence toward “best practices,” at least how many people define them: one-size-fits-all checklists of things that worked for some successful team in the past that should be used by anyone that is doing anything remotely similar. In other words, tacit knowledge made explicit with no accounting for the context or knowledge of the people/team expected to use the practice.

On the recommendation of Larry Prusak, I am currently reading Knowledge, Institutions and Evolution in Economics (The Graz Schumpeter Lectures). I’m about 2/3 of the way through, and am still digesting most of it (I have the feeling I’m going to need to read it again to truly appreciate it!), but the following quote (on page 64) from ‘Routines and other recurring action patterns of organizations: contemporary research issues‘ by Michael D. Cohen et al (published 1996 in Industrial and Corporate Change) caught my eye:

A routine is an executable capability for repeated performance in some context that [has] been learned by an organization in response to selective pressures.

Replace “routine” with “best practice” and this becomes a description of best-practice that I can live with.

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