nonprofits,local leaders & Grt.New Haven business sharing information
I love the association community, but I don't like our obsession with "best practices." Having said that, I have to admit that I get some benefit from the obsession. Volunteer Boards I think get a lot of comfort out of the idea--that we, the somewhat-trusted staff, have access to this pool of "best practices" in association management that the volunteers could never know about coming from a d
ifferent industry. "The staff knows the best practices," the Board members tell each other, "so let them do their job. Let's not reinvent the wheel." I admit it: it makes my job easier.
But I have also written about the dangers of best practices, as have many, manysmart people. There are compelling arguments why best practices don't work, given the uniqueness of organizational cultures, the inability to track true cause and effect in organizations, and the power of coming up with your OWN solutions. The most recent argument comes from a blog post by Holly Green: best practices are flawed because we are human beings.
Best practices are developed by experts. Why is this a problem? Holly says:
Because experts are human, and as humans we don't believe what we see. Instead, we see what we already believe. We constantly seek to prove what we think is right, and as a result we miss critical data and limit our success by getting locked into ideas and assumptions that may no longer be true.
Best practices will never go away entirely, but we need to wake up to how they are robbing our organizations of the capacity to be successful. Pay attention to where your reliance on experts blocks your system's ability to learn. Be honest with yourself about the cost of choosing the comfortable, less contentious path in your Board conversations (these are association best practices; trust us). Challenge your own expertise, constantly.