You keep using that phrase, I do not think it means what you think it means — Best Practice

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I am often asked for the best practice in a particular domain. Especially when talking about digital services, user centred design and agile.

There are some questions you can ask yourself to identify which approach will be appropriate for your problem.

  • Is the problem predictable? Will it respond in exactly the same way to a standard solution?
  • Is the problem well defined? Is there a clear relationship between cause and effect?
  • Is the problem well understood? Have we seen it before? Have we solved it before?
Yes to all of the above
Yes to all of the above?

The solution is probably best practice

  • Could any reasonably intelligent person follow a basic set of instructions to resolve the problem?

The solution is probably best practice.

  • Is there someone with expertise who can resolve the problem with existing knowledge and skills?

The solution is probably Good practice, a choice from a number of approaches which will work depending on the precise issue.

  • Does the problem have multiple interacting factors? Is it unpredictable, not well defined and has no obvious cause and effect relationship?

The solution is probably emergent practice, the way to resolve the problem is to use ‘safe to fail’ experiments and to learn what works and what doesn’t before doing more or stopping an experiment and trying something else.

If immediate action is required to stabilise the situation for example in a house flood, the priority is to restore order and there is only novel practice e.g. moving valuables upstairs and stopping more water from entering. Once order is restored we would determine the next appropriate response.

The first thing I do is to draw Cynefin out for the person and ask the questions above. Usually I can see the light bulbs go on over their head. All thanks and credit to Dave Snowden and The Cynefin Co and to Inigo Montoya.