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What is Worst Practice?

Smartpedia: Worst practices are the exact opposite of best practices. Worst practice is an approach that is highly likely to lead to failure.

Worst practice – bad despite experience

Worst practices are not desirable because they are the exact opposite of best practices. ​ They describe practices that are highly likely to lead to failure. Ideally, organisations learn from their experience and then improve processes, workflows or methods. Experience is often turned into best practices.

Irrespective of the discussion as to whether there can be best practices at all (the term implies in a certain way that there is an optimal path to a solution for a certain task and this assumption is usually wrong), or whether good practices are the better term compared to best practices – worst practices are not positive. They are not searched for, they are not consciously developed, and yet they often occur in companies. There can be several reasons for this:

  • The task to be solved has such a low priority that no one can or wants to seriously think about a good or even the best possible solution.
  • The path taken to solve a task was previously considered to be a good one under different circumstances. A renewed examination of the procedure does not take place.
  • Resources, i.e. employees or materials, are lacking to find a better solution.

In summary, one could say: Worst practices are accepted cheaply, they arise in the course of time due to lack of review, ignorance or financial indifference. In contrast to best practices, they are more a judgement of an approach than a plan.

Some blogs point out that the development of worst practices can be a conscious step towards good or best practices. This may sound conceivable in theory, but is not practical in real life. If you are looking for a solution to a challenge, you rarely need to take a detour via possible bad actions in order to deduce good actions.

Examples of worst practices

Of course, there are numerous practical examples of worst practices:

  • An organisation wants to introduce a new software and leaves this task to a trainee who has no decision-making authority and does not know that possible resistance can arise.
  • A company wants to develop new software, but does not analyse stakeholders and stakeholder communication, because it knows what customers and the market want.
  • A company wants to become more agile (whatever that means exactly) and books a Scrum course for all employees.

An outsider may sometimes be surprised that there are actually companies that use worst practices and then wonder why developments, implementations, projects, etc. don’t work. However, since it is easy to point the finger at others, it is always a good idea to take a look at one’s own organisation from time to time, and there may also be some bad practices there. But if the statement “The worst practice is to follow the best practice” is true, each organization is allowed to answer for itself.

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