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Best Practice is a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. In the business vernacular, "best practices" are not subject to peer review or standards-development process, so no one in particular is charged with determining what actually is the best practice in a particular domain.


The notion of a best practice is not new. Frederick Taylor (1919) said as much nearly 100 years ago: “among the various methods and implements used in each element of each trade there is always one method and one implement which is quicker and better than any of the rest” (Taylor, 1919). This viewpoint came to be known as the "one best way" (Kanigel, 1997).

History, however, is filled with examples of people who were unwilling to accept the industry standard as the best way to do anything. The enormous technological changes since the Industrial Revolutions in England and the United States bear witness to this fact. For example, at one time horses were considered the 'best' form of transportation, even after 'horse-less carriages' were invented. Today, most people drive a gasoline, diesel, or bio-fuel vehicle—itself an improvement on the horse-less carriage.

A more recent example can be found in the 1968 Summer Olympics where a young man named Dick Fosbury revolutionized high-jumping technique. Using an approach that became known as the Fosbury Flop, he won the gold medal (in a new Olympic record height of 2.24m or 7 ft 4 1/4 in), by going over the bar back-first instead of head-first. Had he relied on 'best practice,' as did all of his fellow competitors, he probably would not have won the event. Instead, by ignoring 'Best Practice', he raised the performance bar—literally—for everyone. At the same time, however, he inadvertantly created the new 'Best Practice', which has become the only high jump technique ever since. The purpose of any standard is to provide a kind of plumb line, and therefore that standard must be, "What is possible?" and not, "what is somebody else doing?" (Hoag & Cooper, 2006).

Real-world use

In real-world application, Best Practice is a very useful concept. Despite the need to improve on processes as times change and things evolve, Best Practice is considered by some as a business buzzword used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use for management, policy, and especially software systems.

Best Practices are commonly used in many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Marketing Operations Management (MOM) systems. A Best Practice can be selected (generally from several competing options) and defined within a computer system. Then, any organization performing similar tasks can draw from the same procedure, and theoretically improve their operations.

Human Resources is one example of Best Practices as implemented in MOM systems. There are numerous standard procedures defined when managing an organisation's employees, volunteers, and contractors. By choosing a "Best Practice" or standard way of organizing and performing processes, the makers of MOM systems or Human Resource Management HRM system software are able to produce systems that can be used by multiple organisations.

Because such systems are restrictive by nature, implementing Best Practices by using such software may force organisations who have less formally defined procedures to conform to a single standard. Deviation from this standard may require a change to the software. Avoiding these related costs may be a motivating factor in choosing to conform.

Newly discovered Best Practices and changing industry standards often heavily influence ERP/MOM/HRM system design. Recent pressures on companies to change quickly in emerging global marketplaces have forced many vendors to be more flexible in how Best Practices are defined and implemented

Best practices continually evolve

The notion of 'best practices' does not commit people or companies to one inflexible, unchanging practice. Instead, Best Practices is a philosophical approach based around continuous learning and continual improvement.

For example, the American Productivity and Quality Centre (APQC) [1] suggests that:

"Three themes resonate through successful benchmarking and best-practice transfer efforts:

  1. Transfer is a people-to-people process; meaningful relationships precede sharing and transfer.
  2. Learning and transfer is an interactive, ongoing, and dynamic process that cannot rest on a static body of knowledge. Employees are inventing, improvising, and learning something new every day.
  3. Benchmarking stems from a personal and organizational willingness to learn. A vibrant sense of curiosity and a deep respect and desire for learning are the keys to success."

Best practices do not have one template or form for everyone to follow. In the context of Business Management, Best Practice is the concept that a good process, and planning, is being followed in the Execution Management of a project plan, and that changes to the initial plan, dependencies, and goals are being tracked and documented.

Best practices and kaizen

The Japanese word kaizen has been imported into Western organizational language and stresses the importance of efforts to improve constantly. This ethos is antithetical to the commonly accepted notions of best practice. Some organizations consider their Best Practices to be a badge of honor, believing that having adopted this technique, method or process that further improvement is not the priority that it was before that particular practice was implemented.

Best Practices is ideally, and at the core of the concept, the defining of methods used to get things done. Benefits often include the assurance of quality results and consistency when the process is followed. OK

Best practices domains

Domains where Best Practices have been applied include:

  • Incremental and iterative development
  • Quality Assurance
  • Performance engineering
  • Risk management
  • Change Process
  • Release execution
  • Issues management
  • Milestones
  • Release Control
  • Defect tracking
  • Use Case
  • Baseline management
  • Requirements management
  • Automated testing process
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Physical planning and land use management
  • Local governance

Best Practices are used in technology development, such as new software, but also in construction, transportation, business management,sustainable development, and various aspects of Project Management.

Best Practices are used within any business type including, but not limited to: sales, manufacturing, teaching, programming software, road construction, health care, insurance, and accounting.

Documenting and charting these procedures and practices is a complicated and time-consuming process often skipped by companies, even though they may practice the proper processes consistently.

Some consulting firms specialize in the area of Best Practice. Often "Best Practice" consulting firms offer pre-made 'templates' to standardize business process documentation. A key strategic talent is required to provide good "Best Practice" consulting to organisations: the ability to balance the uniqueness of an organisation with practices it has in common with other organisations.

One such consultancy firm is 'Best Practice Group PLC' who focus on large scale technology procurement Best Practice.

In many cases the cost of making modifications to a system or process which comes standard in a template or with a delivered computer application forces an organisation into using "Best Practice". Often it is to the benefit of the organisation. Sometimes a "Best Practice" will hurt an organisation. Good "Best Practice" consulting firms can assist organisations in making decisions appropriate for the organisation.

Good Operating Practice

Good Operating Practice is a strategic management term, usually capitalized. More specific uses of the term include Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practice, Good Laboratory Practice, Good Clinical Practice and Good Distribution Practice.

See also


  • Hoag, B and Cooper, C L (2006). Managing Value-Based Organizations: It's Not What You Think. Northampton, MA and Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Kanigel, R (1997). The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Taylor, F (1919). The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

External links

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