I worked for a government contractor some time ago and not a day went by without hearing the phrase
‘Best Practices’ uttered. It was such that I began to wonder if their use of the term was less a comment on
what we should be doing as much as it was an unconscious cry for help. What does “best practices”
mean? What are they? How do we find them? We where supposed to spend time determining what the
best practices would be for each situation. It was somewhat comical for two reasons: one that was a
tremendous waste of time as we were all technical experts having been brought in because of our skills
and experience. It should go without saying that we would be perusing the best, correct, or at least the
applicable way of accomplishing the tasks. And two because by structure it was the most backwards and
wrong headed development project I had ever been on. Everyone involved acknowledge that it was
messed up and we openly discussed it to no effect.
I was on a conference call one afternoon with our team. We had gone through the role call of what we
were working on all which was fluff since we were a team of seven report developers working on a project
with less then sixty reports and no real data source. One developer could have finished all the reports in a
month if we had a data source and a thousand report developers couldn’t get one report done without a
data source. Most of what we were doing was reading documents about what the reports might look like or
should look like. It was a tremendous waste of time and quite mind numbing. But we were encouraged to
find something to do so on the command, “go” we all scattered and set out to find some piece of
knowledge that would prove that we were busy working on something of great value to the project. We
gathered on the phone three times a week and went over what we had found. No real work got done but in
the end we all agreed on what was the best way to do the work when and or if we ever actually did any.
It’s a good idea to know what your doing before you start doing it but if you have been doing it for along
time and you haven’t figured it out by now then you never will and going over it again will just be a waste of
In every job, in every industry, at every level there is busy work. If you’re working at McDonalds then your
wiping down the counter, if you’re administrative then you’re making new labels for the files, if you’re
technical or a manager you’re searching for “best practices.” It’s all the same and a waste of time but its
part of the game.
The Brutal Truth:
There are lots of useless and stupid activities that you will be called to engage in as part of a job. You
might as well not bother trying to argue against them. Just think; I am getting paid X to do this. If they want
to waste their money that’s fine. They’re paying for my time, that’s all.