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More Wise Words

An occasional series in which, in the spirit of Professor Thrupiece, we explore the rich and ever-changing etymology of the English language and give a practical example of common usage to hammer the point home to those a little "slow on the uptake" [Can we say this? [ed] Shouldn't we use words like "affected" or "touched" or some such?]

#67 Best Practice

According to the generally infallible [though quite frequently inaccurate] Bonipedia best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted by those "in the know" [eg graduates of the University of Afpuddle, [proponents of "The Science" especially]] as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are markedly better [eg cheaper or more acceptable] than those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things even if it's actually crap, e.g., a standard way of complying with legal, medical, broadly operational or, in extremis, even ethical requirements.

Best practice is used to maintain the appearance of quality as an alternative to mandatory legislated standards [which actually do so] and can be based on self-assessment* or benchmarking**. Best practice is a feature of accredited management standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14001. [Beats me! Sometimes I think they just make it up to look clever.]

* readers will readily see the loophole here: "It's best practice if I say it is and if it's best for me". This explains, to a degree, its popularity amongst public servants and why there are so many experts in the field.

**Benchmarking is a technical term concerned with comparison and calibration and should not be confused with the old schoolboy trick of taking a penknife to laboratory woodwork and carving an obscenity about a fellow pupil whose physical deformities or strange practices later generations cannot verify.

OBJECT LESSON: "Best Practice" and some of the many tricky words those advising on it are advised to avoid.

Hard though it is to believe, some consulting firms actually specialize in the area of best practice and make large sums of money from it; offering ready-made templates to standardize business process documentation however inappropriately [see "One Size Doesn't Fit All" Dorset Journal of Girdle, Stays and Pantihose Manufacturers, September 2017]. Sometimes a best practice is not applicable or is inappropriate for a particular organization's needs in which case they should do what they like and call it best practice - since no one is likely to notice the difference and a well-placed sign saying "we follow best practice" often suffices [See Affirmative Action and How to Fake It, Herston Round Table Guide to Best Practice No VIII]. A key strategic talent required when applying best practice to organizations is the ability [a] to balance the unique qualities of an organization with the practices that it has in common with others, [b] to carry a clipboard or iPad and [c] to bullshit for England on the basis of a pre-prepared report.

Good operating practice is a strategic management term [ie meaningless]. More specific uses of the term include, for example, good agricultural practices [watering plants before they die], good manufacturing practice [keeping your tool clean], good laboratory practice [see good manufacturing practice], good clinical practice [finishing something off with precision eg "the finish to that Mannington City goal was clinical"] and good distribution practice [sharing the blame amongst all colleagues excepting oneself especially for failing to follow best practice - which is in itself sometimes considered best practice***].

***best practice should not be confused with good practice. The latter is susceptible to objective assessment - good, bad, indifferent; the former is a moveable feast and a badge awarded arbitrarily regardless of merit [eg child leaves school after performing as third donkey in the nativity play: "Mummy did you see me?"; "Darling you were simply the best; now let's get home so I can have a nice glass of wine before Daddy gets back."].


Practical Example: Best practice [extract by kind permission of the publishers Old Dorset Customs Vol IV: Songs and shanties: MCCXVI: Cripplestyle and Its Environs [1898-1914]

Authentic poster used by the Dorset Folk Song Society to corroborate Dr Vaughan Willibone's record.

This conversation was recorded on 4 March 1906 at The Cripplestyle Hiring Fair and later transcribed by composer and Dorset Folk Song Society enthusiast Ralph Vaughan-Willibone:

Mrs Sedley: Are you a'go'in fer't't playin them jigs at yon fayre, young Branston?

Branston: Aye Ma, I's been thinkin' on it all fetch.

Mrs Sedley: Well then lad, you'd best practice

Composer Ralph Vaughan Willibone, visiting the Cripplestyle Hiring Fair is mistaken for a nancyboy and propositioned by a soldier. [Picture courtesy The Royal Dorset Academy of Music]

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