Don’t share your best practices! Share the ones that are ‘Good Enough’.

You can find the full post on this here.

In the policy to effort session at Government 2.0 camp, Lovisa Williams of the Department of State summed up the problem of building on cross agency’s efforts as “Don’t share your best practices, share them when they are good enough.” It sounded like a good start to a blog post.

If collaborative efforts begin with sharing final outcomes which the authors don’t want to change because they have invested in these as being final, then essentially the collaborative process doesn’t begin. It’s more of a building on lessons learned than a collaboration .

It’s kind of like growing your vegetables in your own walled garden and only sharing the seeds after you have harvested the first successful crop. In order to build an agile and responsive government, we need to all plant seeds at the same time and figure out together how to get them to grow in the first season.

More at the original post here.

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Adriel Hampton

Good stuff, Ken! Steve Ressler proved this with GovLoop, and it’s also worked for Gov 2.0 Radio and other efforts. If we didn’t do things until we were perfect at them, nothing would ever get done.

Andrea Baker

Its a fine line. I agree and disagree. Sometimes you just go from first gear totally transparent, other times, you might want to hold back to see a plan develop. Of course, holding back can mean someone else beats you to it.

Phong Mai

I agree with the ‘perpetual beta’ since web apps are easily upgraded and new features are constantly pushed out. Features based on user’s feedback is a critical component of Web 2.0. Users are co-developers so there is no such thing as a finished product compared to traditional apps. I guess the mantra is ‘just do it’ and get feedbacks.


Hi Phong
Well I was referring to sharing knowledge more than applications but I guess the same can apply for applications in some low critical situations.

Phong Mai

Yes, understood. I was referring to the comment by Jean-Paul about the solution. In this case I am assuming it is the Web 2.0 app.

Victoria Ward

12 years of knowledge management stuff of one kind or another in government and development settings and I think ‘best practice’ one of the worst concepts. 6 things I’ve learned
1. good enough is good enough, so I heartily agree
2. people don’t know themselves or what they’ve done and summarise to the point of uselessness. Proliferation of ‘best practice databases’ is one of the worst ideas around: “Communications in a virtual team need to be good” is the sort of best practice that should be trashed.
3. Story stuff helps people recollect moments they didn’t know how they’d overcome and how they overcame them.
4. Most useful of all is forward lessons rather than backward lessons, and to someone (fictional or real) that you care about. So the set up for the gathering and transmission can make a big difference. ‘What good practice did you learn on this project’ is much less use than ‘Imagine you’re sitting with a colleague having a coffee and helping them start up a similar project. What would you tell them about the do’s and don’ts?’
5. Much good practice is banal even where projects are interesting. For example, in the lessons learned work we did for Defra on Foresight, some of the lessons were along the lines of ‘Futures research is different, you must make sure your steering committee turns up’, which is not exactly glamourous. So a key is to figure out what kind of voice you want to speak in to convey a good practice from which there’s often collective ironic distancing ‘Yeah, yeah, we know that, but we all know we don’t do that’. Is it a stern, authoritative voice, a witty one, warm and encouraging, personal and rueful? Is it an essay, something that looks like an organisational memo, a Youtubish kind of entertainment? Much too little time is spend figuring out the vehicles of onward tranmission that work to convey good practices to the place where they can do good work.
6. Worst practice is often much easier, darker, funnier and more penetrating. The dark aside allows the light side to show up through counterpoint and contrast.

Mike Jennings

The habit of coveting ideas is learned when a stakeholder loses their share of the success in an idea. Unfortunately, the culture within many .gov offices fosters political positioning as opposed to openness and transparency. Notice the silence of the onlookers in this Fedex commercial until it becomes safe to agree with the idea. How do we move away from this relic of non-collaboration in government? Until its rooted out, or until it dies out, people who wish to share will be met with the same disappointments.
Click here in case the Youtube video is not embedded.

Lorin Mueller

Best practices are so content specific, in my view, that even if we do share them, we need not be overly invested in maintaining their sanctity. If someone finds use in some aspect of what I am working on, that’s good enough for me. I’ll be glad to consult with them, so long as criticism is constructive.

Mike Jennings

Addendum to my prior post: My point is that people don’t want to share risky or incomplete ideas because they get disappointment instead of reward.

Pat Rupert

I’m rather tired of official ‘lessons learned’, my experience is they are more akin to lesson accumulation sites with little evidence of learning.
I’m also worn down by organizations who state they are interested in the pursuit of continuous improvement, yet are wedded to the need for codification of ‘best practices’.
I’m pursuing means of sharing information, as a means of collaborating, among people working complex industrial processes, located at a half dozen sites from Asia to North America. The kicker is; not all these folks are ‘on line’. Social networking tools are one early step (bypassing the implied approval noted by Ken when contrasting ‘Best Practices’ with ‘Good Enough’) to use between planners and managers, but how does one transfer good enough across geologic barriers when the parties best able to generate improvements are not connected by phone or computer?

Joshua joseph

Ken, just one more voice saying thanks for this thoughtful post and also Victoria for your terrific addition…summarized exactly to the point of usefulness – jj