Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Are best practices less best and more practised?

Best practices are a huge buzzword in government circles. NGOs make a big deal of it, and the government even more. I recall many an instance in my NGO stint where a babu would mention the need to identify best practices and either incorporate them into the organisation or disseminate them. On the face of it, looks like a good idea. Find the "best" organisations. Find what makes them "best." Inculcate them in your organisation, and you may well be on the way to being "better" if not "best." There are times when the knowledge is useful. However, what is important to know is when is this knowledge not-so-useful?

Businesspundit talks about survivorship bias through a book review of the much famous Good to Great over here. The funda runs like this. A and B compete. A wins and B loses. You cannot rigorously conclude that A won because of attribute X unless you know the context of attribute X with regard to B.

Only if A has attribute X and you know that B did not have attribute X, can you conclude the importance of X to make A succeed over B.

It is like telling that those who made through CAT exam have worked harder than others who did not. There are people who would have worked harder than those who made through CAT. To the extent that hard work is known as a desirable factor, the question is to what degree does it explain the success of those who made it compared to those who didn't!

X could even be the degree of an attribute. This idea is derived from the statistical funda of comparing two groups. But more on it later.

And if you are interested in failure, I would recommend you Why Most Things Fail. Did I mention to you before that failure is one of my fave subjects? :-) Unfortunately, there is no "worst practices" book out there. My guess is that some of the ideas can be very subtle!

Back to the Top

Back to the Top