Best definition.

Author:Heffes, Ellen M.
Position:Special Section: Overview - Management strategies

best(best)adv. prac.tices(prak' tis z)noun; documented strategies, activities and approaches shown through research and evaluation to be effective at driving the highest levels of excellence in productivity, profitability and competitivenes.

Logging on to keying in "best practices" resulted -- in less than 1 second -- in 3,210,000 entries. Not exactly an easy subject to wrap one's arms around. Which, ironically, relates to the concept of best practices itself.

Browsing the first 30 pages clearly proved that best practices data permeates a variety of industries, services, processes and disciplines --ranging from manufacturing, human resources, communications, consulting, education, health care, supply chains, information technology. government and customer service, to psychiatry and programs for substance abuse, to name a few.

Sites like describe best practice areas and suggest interested parties benchmark, or compare, their performance to the leaders and use the proven methods as guides for setting improved performance goals and targets instead of "devoting scarce resources to inventing new techniques."

At, the Web site for Best Practices, LLC (BP), a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based consulting firm, best practices are defined as "documented strategies and tactics employed by highly admired companies. These companies are not best-in-class in every area -- such a company does not exist. But due to the nature of competition and their drive for excellence, the profiled practices have been implemented and honed to help place their practitioners as the most admired, the most profitable and the keenest competitors in the business."

Looked at in yet another way, Stanford faculty member turned researcher-consultant-author Jim Collins applies an analogy of science to best practices by making a clean distinction between the realm of physics and engineering. He defines best practices as "discovering timeless laws of physics and then, over time, creating practices that match with those to bring them [the laws] to life."

When it comes to engineering, Collins argues, "Be it mechanical, electrical, biological, the practices constantly evolve and change. Contrast that with the laws of physics, which remain relatively fixed and intact." Indeed, engineering best practices in the 1950s differ vastly from those of 2002, while the laws of physics remain the same, he says.

Co-author of the landmark...

To continue reading