“A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark.” This definition is from wikipedia.org on October 28, 2011.
Why this is important
Unless one uses the right collection of best practices, whatever you do is likely to not be done well. The harder the problem, the better the practices must be.
When it comes to solving difficult problems quickly the first time, the following best practices tend to be used:
1. A true analysis of the problem is performed. Analysis is breaking a problem down into smaller problems so they can be solved individually. For a difficult problem, this has the effect of taking a giant Gordian knot of incomprehensible complexity and deftly turning it into a collection of much simpler and therefore potentially solvable problems. In practice this decomposition is so powerful it can transform a problem from insolvable to solvable.
2. The Scientific Method is used to prove all key assumptions. The Scientific Method is the only known method for producing reliable knowledge. Without it you cannot build knowledge upon knowledge reliably, which will cause a complex analysis and solution to collapse before they are even a meter high. This is the same as saying that without the Scientific Method you cannot create the large body of sound knowledge necessary for solving a difficult problem. Without the Scientific Method you can only consistently solve easy problems.
3. A formal process that fits the problem is used. If it's a good fit, then if correctly followed it will lead to solution or to discovery the problem is insolvable. A process is a repeatable series of steps and practices to achieve a goal, such as a recipe or Robert's Rules of Order for parliamentary procedure.
4. Learning from past mistakes and successes is maximized. As George Santayana wrote in The Life of Reason in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
These are the best practices of Analytical Activism, which is the use of analysis instead of intuition to solve difficult activist problems
Now for a simple test. How many environmental organizations are using all four of these best practices in a highly productive manner?
Sadly, the answer is none. An Assessment of Process Maturity performed in 2006 on ten representative environmental organizations found that none scored over 40 out of 60 points on these four best practices. That's only enough to reliably solve easy or medium difficulty problems. A score of 48 or more (80% of 60 points) is needed to solve difficult problems like the sustainability problem.
Are you ready for a shock? Only 2 out of 10 organization scored above 10 points. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) scored only 4 points. This is disturbing news since the UNEP is the world's leading global solution to the sustainability problem. Here are the scores:
Assessment of Process Maturity in the Four Best Practices
|1. Alliance for Climate Protection||
|2. Club of Rome||
|3. European Union Environmental Directorate General||
|4. The Natural Step||
|5. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)||
|6. Nature Conservancy||
|7. Sierra Club||
|8. United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)||
|9. Union of Concerned Scientists||
|10. World Resources Institute||
How well are you and your organization performing the four best practices?