Best practices change how you think.
It’s natural that each of us believes that the way we select to accomplish something is the best way to accomplish it. If not, we’d choose another method.
Among a large group of people several methods may be chosen and each person thinks they have discovered the best method of accomplishment. Yet, it only seems logical that some must be better than others. As a site manager, can you sort through the many ‘ways’ and choose the very best, then set that as a ‘best practice standard’ for your operation, or for an entire system of sites? It’s easier said than done, but it’s possible, and there is some help out there for you.
A few years ago I was privileged to serve on the National Association for Interpretation’s best practice committee. The idea was to pull several experienced people together, select salient topics: interpretation, planning, organizations, and academics, and write how those might be accomplished in three categories of quality: Good, better and best. The results were interesting, and useful. You’ll find them at http://www.interpnet.com/standards/
What is surprising is that someone doing something perfectly well – as in ‘good’ – can do tis for years the be just fine. The program does very well, the audience gives compliments and it’s all just fine, nothing bad at all. But they can take a look at these best practice documents and instantly see elements they can add to their work to move up a notch, to the ‘better’ category, and the ‘best.’ It’s not difficult. It’s the AH-HA!, the awareness (I could have had a V-8!) that makes you perk up and begin asking how your work could be cranked up a notch or two. Once you read these you realize that some simple things make a difference, and you begin to think a little more deeply.
I use them as a reference and as a thought stimulator. In workshops for our park interpreters and our park managers we reference the best practice documents, and cite examples of good, better, best. My purpose is not to use those as specific standards or actions, but to call attention to the fact that that we may be doing just fine and everything’s hunky-dory and we are performing at the good level and all is well, but knowing that with some thought and some tweaks we could move up to the ‘better’ or ‘best’ levels is an eye-opener. This makes folks think, makes them look at the NAI documents and helps them set goals above the norm. Plus, we have started using the term ‘best practice’ regularly and have sought out best practice examples from our staff and held those up as visible examples, making the action of doing best practice a more prominent goal within our park system.
I hope this pushes the ‘acceptable point’ a little higher and sets a new level of normative behavior for interpreters and managers.