best practice or not?

As I post many blog posts about best project management practices, I found the article « what is best practice? » by Ted Hardy quite relevant.

but, what is the correct question for best practices?

As a matter of facts, the real question may not be to determine if a practice is good, bad or best. A much more appropriate question could be : “Is the practice appropriate for me, my company, and my project?”

Or one could ask: “How does it suit me?”

Indeed, Ted reminds us that applying a « best practice » has never been a guarantee for success. However, it can help you to unlock a difficult situation. It is very useful to position yourself, to benchmark against peers and competitors. It may also help you understand why some have succeeded while others put you in trouble. Additionally, it is worth keeping in mind that best practices are not set in stone, they too do need to evolve. And, it is not because you have applied a best practice once or a few times that you have truly mastered it.

so, what criteria may we use to identify for sure which are best practices?

Well… maybe can we use an approach similar to the one often used to distinguish good from bad objectives, they need to be S.M.A.R.T.

Here are my proposals for what S.M.A.R.T. may be for « best practices »:

  • S-pecific: What exactly is this best practice for? In what context shall it be used? With what precise objective?
  • M-easurable: How will I know if it works or not? How will I know that I have implemented the Best Practice in a correct manner? How will I be able to benchmark against others who use it?
  • A-daptable: It needs to fit my project, my business context, my specific constraints…
  • R-epeatable: How may I be sure that, when applied, it will consistently provide the same efficient results? Also, as written above, I will need to apply it several times before being in position to say that I master it.
  • T-ested: I need to be in position to give it a good try, to prove it can work in my environment, and on my project before it can be adapted at a wider scale in my company.


photo credit: © Anatoly Maslennikov

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at