There was an article in one of London’s free papers today listing the “top ten most annoying phrases”, and among the usual suspects, holding on at number 8 is “Best Practice”, for which Metro’s plain English translation is “a good way of doing something”.
It caused me a bit of soul searching about the language barriers we build around our own lexicon of tools, techniques and frameworks. I thought it might be fun to come up with my own “KM Buzzzword bingo” card for use during dull moments at KM conferences and team meetings. I’m not criticizing the featured buzzwords (I’m guilty of many of them myself!) – just pointing out that the KM discipline is more than capable of making your average employee scratch their heads and say “whaaaat?”.
(Feel free to click and download the PowerPoint version if you’d like to adapt it.)
Going back to Best Practice for a moment though, it reminded me of a recent discussion I had with Ian Thorpe on his blog entry “Will I spoil KM if I tell people that “best practices” don’t exist?”, which, incidentally has one of my favourite ever Dilbert cartoons in it.
I think Ian and I ended up agreeing that where Best Practices do exist (whish is much less than people might think, and usually in an operational context – checklists for routinely landing a plan, preparing an operating theatre etc.), they should be considered time-bound – Best for today, based on current knowledge – but not set in stone. The problem comes when we treat good practice unthinkingly as if it were truly “best”, and fail to adapt it for our own context.
So the Metro free newspaper’s translation “a good way of doing something” is probably true of most good practices which are mis-labelled as “best”.
I wonder what their editor would make of the rest of our Bingo card? Perhaps I should reach out to her…