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Is Questioning Best Practices a Best Practice?

Many years ago I attended a church service where the minister talked about the absurdity of blindly following religious practices without having an understanding of their origin and meaning, and that by doing so could be considered lazy, irresponsible or even dangerous.  He challenged his parish to read, study, investigate and yes even question these practices (pretty progressive thought back then for a mainline denomination).

As an example, he told a story about a very old small church somewhere in Europe.  Upon entering and leaving the church through the main entrance, parishioners would turn and face a large wall and gesture across their bodies with the sign of the cross.  There was nothing special about the wall.  No statues or symbols decorated the space.  It was just a large blank neutral painted wall.

One day a visitor came to the church and witnessed this behavior.   On the way out, the minister would stand at the door and shake the hands of the parishioners as they left.  When the visitor shook the hand of the minister he asked him, “Why does everyone who enters and leaves the church turn to that big blank wall and make the sign of the cross?”  A bit embarrassed, the minister had to admit that he did not know but assured him that he would look into it.

Several months later, after unsuccessfully trying to find the answer by asking people who had been church members for many years, he uncovered a document that showed a large mural of Christ ascending into Heaven that was once painted on that big blank wall.  Apparently after many years of disrepair, the church leadership had decided it was time to paint over the mural.  Although the painting was gone, the long-standing practice lived on.  However, the meaning had been lost after several generations.  After uncovering this information, the church commissioned a local artist to recreate the mural on that blank wall, bringing meaning and purpose to the practice.

I thought of this story as I was reading a Harvard Business Review blog post by Freek Vermeulen entitled “Which Best Practice Is Ruining Your Business?” that was shared by the ITMPI’s (ITMPI.Org) Accelerating IT Success Newsletter (AITS.Org).

How many of our so-called IT and Business Best Practices have become rote behaviors that we execute blindly?  How many of the procedures that we follow were created to address a problem or issue at one snapshot in time but hold very little purpose today as our businesses have changed?

Take a look at the article and ask yourself “Have I made questioning Best Practices a Best Practice in my business?”

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!

Pete

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