"Best practice" is a phrase used to identify a documented way of achieving a specific results under specific circumstances in an effective way. It is a concept based on lessons learned by one group that are passed on to other groups. In this way an individual or organization can focus on performance of the task rather than first determining the best way to accomplish the task. This can save both time and money. In addition, the use of best practices can facilitate a more consistent set of results.
The wheels of progress would turn much more slowly if every time an organization began a task that they had never done before, they had to use a trial and error method to determine the most efficient way of performing the task. However, by relying on other people and/or organizations’ trials and errors that have evolved into a method that has been proven to be the most efficient, they can begin the task using a proven method. The proven method, known as a "best practice," can then be tweaked if necessary to meet specific needs of their organization. This is the essence of best practices.
In order for a method or idea to be considered a best practice, it must have certain characteristics including the ability, and the desire, to be duplicated by others. Best practices can be used in any kind of business. Some examples of areas they are used in include the development of new software, construction, transportation, business management and government. They can be used both in the policy, management or the actual manufacturing aspect of a business or organization. Best practices can be documented in the form of manuals, lists, reports, software, instructional documents or materials.
Best practices are not static and are continually being improved upon. This is especially important now in a time of quickly evolving technology. A method or technique of achieving success that is accepted as the best in the field today will very likely be replaced tomorrow as a result of technological advances. If best practices are never questioned or improved upon, then progress would come to a stand still. Consequently, in addition to their importance in providing a blueprint for success in carrying out a specific task, they are also important as a springboard for finding better ways to do the task and thus establishing new best practices.