My last article explored the evolution that I’ve navigated since I started writing here more than a decade ago. A lot has changed in that time. Writing here, I’ve found my voice, clarified my focus and continued to attract more of you to come check out what I do (and most of you have continued to hang around, often for years). I promised to share my perspective on who I think my typical reader is. I also promised to share what I heard from you in the survey I asked you to complete. The two perspective combine to tell an interesting tale.
I have been publishing to my blog for more than a decade. In that time, I have changed a great deal. I’ve changed cities, shifted organizational focus and radically restructured how I spend my time. Of course, you’ve changed also. You aren’t the same person you were any more than I’m the same person that I was. You may have been here from the outset; you may have just signed up last week. What I’m curious about is where you are at, where you are going, and what you’d like to see here going forward. I’d be grateful if you would take the time to share your insights.
Pretty much any time the topic of team building has come up, it’s a fairly safe bet that I’ve taken a shot at Tuckman’s model of group development. You likely know it as “forming, storming, norming and performing.” While conceptually appealing (and hey, it rhymes, so what’s not to like?) what it describes is lots of theory, unsupported by the practical substance of how teams and groups actually develop. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped it from being cited with ridiculous frequency, and hold a dominant place in the collective minds of leaders everywhere. There is an explanation as to why this happened. There are also many other models with which to replace it.
Models are how we make sense of the world. We tend to do far better with simple models that provide specific insights, rather than grand theories that attempt to reduce everything down to a single, unified perspective. The challenge is how to identify relevant models, and build an inventory that makes sense for us and our experience. Some models are generic and broadly applicable. Others are specific and focussed. Some models you will be introduced to, others you will discover and some you will build. In all instances, it’s about knowing the meaning you need to create and the perspectives that matter.
If best practices aren’t actually best, then why do they exist? What is the point of process, of practices, of standards even, if they don’t reliably produce good results? While some standards have value, and there are simple situations where there might be a best way of doing things, when it comes to the strategic work that we take on, we are far removed from those statements being true. Even when we want there to be a way of working, one that is consistent and repeatable, the reality we find ourselves in is usually very different. It helps to know what to draw on instead if we are going to be successful.
“Best practices” is a term that we love to bandy about. Even I will find myself relying on it at times, although I try very hard to avoid uttering its syllables. Best practices are frequently espoused as the essential and optimal means of attaining results. Generally, they are absolutely nothing of the sort. Nonetheless, many use the term as a proactive defense to justify their preferred way of working, or an after-the-fact rationalization the actions they have taken. This is my attempt to explain as clearly as I can why this is a dangerous and inappropriate idea.