23 October, 2009

Best Practices and Fairness Cream adverts

Project A followed practice ’P’ and faired quite well, Project B followed and faired better, Project C followed ‘P’ and it was one of the best releases ever. Now practice ‘P’ becomes a benchmark for all the projects in the organization and is crowned the 'Best Practice'.

A Best Practice is defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people as per wikipedia.

Repeatable procedures – If a series of tasks(independent/dependent) are accomplished using trial and error, improvised over time and made to succeed either by tweaking or brute force, does this become a best practice?

Proven over time – If a certain practice has been followed for a long period of time without questioning it irrespective of its advantages or disadvantages, does this become a best practice?

Large numbers of people – If most of the organizations are following a certain practice, does this become a best practice?

Have you seen Fairness Cream adverts? Pick up the most fairish model around. Put up some color to make her look wheatish in complexion and make up a lot of acne. Then start applying some colors to make her fairer each day . It could be a 7 day miracle, 14 day miracle, 1 months or 6 weeks. Anything more than this could be termed as an ineffective fairness cream(that is how the marketing works). At the end of the promised timeline, the model becomes fairer and all the acne just vanish. What an ideal world? We admire these adverts, don’t we? Well, we admire the models more than the adverts and end up buying the creams because we liked the models in the adverts. Same with best practices. More than the practice itself, we tend to think that it has worked for so many organizations/projects/teams. Why would it not work for us? Isn’t this wastefulness?

There is no harm in learning about a new practice, getting gung ho about it and hoping to learn, follow and benefit from it. What is harmful is to tweak the quality of work to fit into the guidelines of the best practices. What is even more harmful is to follow this to impress your higher ups and not because you believe in the value that it brings.

I once worked for a company wherein every time we released a patch to the customer, we had to fill in a 20 page excel worksheet. The only ones that mattered were not more than 3 to 4 worksheets. But every tester had to fill all 20 pages for every patch! When I questioned this, I was told that this was designed as part of one of the Senior Manager’s MBO goals and he needed to ensure that everyone follows it by hook or crook. Best Practices are born exactly like this. If you come across a best practice, do not escape from it. At the same time, do not accept it right away. Analyse what suits best for your project. Defy the best practices!

Happy Defying,
Parimala Shankaraiah
http://curioustester.blogspot.com

PS: I have no offense to fairness cream ads or the models in them. By the way, I have been using a fairness cream for about 10 years now. I am born wheatish and was told that I would become fair. I have not. I tried to stop using it. My skin was so used to it that I got a lot of acne and had to continue using it. Once you get into them, its hard to get out without getting hurt.

Addendum on 19th Dec 2009:
James has written a superb blog post about Best Practices HERE.

10 comments:

  1. Hi

    Thankfully in teaching there are no best practices. Every teacher has got their own styles the bottom line is syllabus needs to be completed. I have some problems in best practices too. For example for doing a Ph.D every university wants to register me under a Ph.d Holder. I have lot of friends in the industry like you, but officially I cant get your help. Coz of the word "Ph.D" which is not there suffixed your names. I fought hard to do a Ph.D without any official guide. Even without any discussions my plea was rejected.Coz that has been considered as the "Best Practice" in all universities.

    And regarding fairness creams Plz go for a cream with SPF(sun protection formula) above 21 and dont see any ad's for that matter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Prakash
    For example for doing a Ph.D every university wants to register me under a Ph.d Holder. I have lot of friends in the industry like you, but officially I cant get your help.


    It is sad but true that a lot of industries are hit by the Best Practices bug. For me, it appear like the Pied Piper story where all the rats jumped into the ocean.

    Thanks,
    Parimala Shankaraiah

    ReplyDelete
  3. "What is harmful is to tweak the quality of work to fit into the guidelines of the best practices. What is even more harmful is to follow this to impress your higher ups and not because you believe in the value that it brings."

    Well said...yes...that is the unfortunate ground reality in most organizations.
    Where in ,we do a lot of daily chores ( fill up excel sheets,publish reports etc) which nobody actually ever reads or cares about ..but we "just" have to do it .

    I remeber ...couple of years back one of my "very best practice" driven test leads used to make the team fill up a status report ...not monthly, not fornightly and even not weekly..but daily !

    soon the team got frustrated of it...and revolted ...thanksfully the team lead got a tap on the head..

    i think such "leaders" either dont have a clue about cost vs value or are just scared to break the run of the mill / antaganoize the PHB ( pointy haired boss)

    hope more and more people move out of darkness and show some guts...this "chalta hai jo boss kehta hai" attitude is dangerous

    thanks

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  4. Would best practice be to use fairness cream, or use it twice a day and apply it in a particular way?

    -Sharath.B

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Sharath Byregowda
    Would best practice be to use fairness cream, or use it twice a day and apply it in a particular way?


    I like this question. I would say 'Use it at your own risk' be it a best practice or even a fairness cream.

    Thanks,
    Parimala Shankaraiah

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent article with a great analogy. I initially thought this was a marketing / advert bashing post :)

    The 20-page xls in some companies is to ensure "process", "compliance", and other such words. As you mentioned, most of them start with the right intention, but end up being just another overhead which no one cares about - but needs to be there to reassure the audit folks. Just ensure that there are no "exceptions" and all values you fill are within the range (or ambiguous), and you're done :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Abhinav
    Excellent article with a great analogy. I initially thought this was a marketing / advert bashing post :)


    Marketing and Publicity are integral to our jobs. We can't bash them up for the bad. Like you said, we need to evaluate the value additions made with each practice without terming it as best practice.

    Glad to know you liked this post.

    Thank You,
    Parimala Shankaraiah

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good one Parimala,

    I am of the view that there are no "Best Practices" but if something is really good to help stake holders making a "Decision" then it should be adapted though not without questioning it.

    I like the term "Better Practice" than calling it a "Best Practice", the reason is simple if something is helpful and no other alternative is available then go for it and at the same time try to make it more vauable.

    Thanks,
    Rahul Gupta
    http://BugMagnate.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Bugmagnate

    I liked the term 'Better Practice'

    Thank You,
    Parimala Shankaraiah

    ReplyDelete
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