Best Practices: Explain and Understand Them!

Best Practices: Explain and Understand Them!

Stop expecting people to blindly follow your advice. Stop blindly following the advice of others.

I’m borrowing a lesson from the man who proclaimed he knew exactly when the world would end (last weekend October 21st now). If you only have a minute, my point is simple and I’ve hit it before here –

For Those Receiving Advice, Tips & Best Practices: Read The Manual. Ask Questions. Understand the how and why

For Those Giving Advice, Tips & Best Practices: Cite your source, Explain the how and why, Be right

That’s it. You can carry on. Or you can keep reading if you want

To Expand…

Quick disclaimer My argument isn’t that there won’t someday be a rapture and a literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. In fact as a Bible believing Christian saved entirely by God’s grace, I believe there will be, each day I try (sometimes harder than others) to live like it is both imminent (remembering to keep my focus on Christ) and like it is far off (remembering to keep busy for Him). My point is that this man’s prophecy flew in the face of what the Bible clearly and simply states on the matter. His approach to calculations make the Bible seem like something that requires codes and numerology to read when it was written simply and reveals truths as written. You may disagree with my stance but as long as we can stipulate that this post comes from the point of view that the Bible does proclaim it but that the Bible also says in many ways that we can’t know when and that this man’s prediction went against the principles in the very Bible he claimed to “understand best” then the example will work. If you can’t get past my stance on the issue, send me an e-mail and I’d be more than happy to chat, e-mail or have a phone call about where I’m coming from but the point of this post isn’t that. It’s –

Blind Adherence To A Person = #Fail

If you are a professional developer and I tell you, “You can’t ever use inline comments, they have problems.” I would hope that you would ask back some sort of a Why? question. I would hope to be challenged some way. That is why when I write best practice guidelines, I try to explain some level of the how and why underneath – “Don’t shrink your database because kittens will die and your database is just going to grow again and you will be causing some nasty index fragmentation,” for example.

If you are expecting to be followed or following a person with no facts, references or understanding WHY to follow – It isn’t going to end well.  I see this all the time when I go into a company “we’ve done it this way for some time now” “why?” “because the last person said to” “why?” “I don’t know they just said it”…

How Harold Camping Did It – (The Nutshell version) He claimed to really know scripture. He taught and spoke well. He was convincing. He ignored the warnings in scripture about doing what he did. He ignored Jesus’ own words saying that no one knows the day or the hour of His return, not the angels, not the son but only God the Father (See Matthew 24:36). He probably mixed enough truth in with his deception to convince his followers he meant it. People too enraptured with the man, too lazy (or ill-equipped?) to read the simple words of Scripture grabbed hold of the message. Maybe they looked around at the state of the world, the advances we’ve had and made yet the way the world seems to still be the same in terms of suffering, the priorities of society, etc. Whatever the reason, they didn’t read the manual. They listened to the man who said he read it and studied it and trusted him instead. I’m praying for these people, the letdown they are feeling and the confusion they must have. That same Bible will offer them hope if they read it for themselves and seek to have an understanding heart while reading it.

How Can We Avoid Doing The Same At Work?

For Those Writing Best Practices/Advising/Directing:

  • Know Your Source Well – Unless you wrote the entire component you are advising on, your information has to come from somewhere, right? If you are suggesting folks not shrink their databases, you better understand why (If you can’t explain something, how can you claim to understand it?) before suggesting it. This should eliminate you going off on a wild tangent that has no bearing in reality only to let everyone down when you realize it was a waste of time/effort.
  • Be Sensible – Ask yourself what you’d do if given un-sourced , unexplained advice to follow and told that it could be disaster if you don’t. There are some roles where orders are orders but when we are thinking people responsible for our company’s data, we better understand what we are doing and why. Expect that response and prepare for it. You’ll end up learning more about your tip in the process. Think about exceptions and don’t get stuck on the “rules” – remember why you made the best practices document in the first place. Hopefully it wasn’t to control but to make a better product.
  • Explain, Reference and Encourage Further Study – Look for some other sources on the advice. When you write your best practices document, provide some links and back story to the ones that could produce questions. Show folks that you aren’t just pulling them from the place they think you are.
  • Evaluate – Some times we miss the mark. Some times approaches change or exceptions become the rule. Be honest with yourself and your team here. Have pride in a great delivery don’t let pride stop one.

For Those Being Asked To Follow –

  • Read, Evaluate and Understand – If you don’t understand the rule or best practice, take it as an opportunity to learn something new and grow your career. Ask for sources, read the sources and understand why something is being recommended.
  • Question Authority – (My kids are too young to read this post still so I feel fine typing it)If you see something you disagree with or isn’t well explained, ask! I’ve had best practices questioned before and once I explained why or discussed the other side I’ve learned and the person asking has learned. Sometimes the suggestion changed, sometimes it didn’t need to. In a coming post series we’ll talk about how some airline accidents happened because of a fear of questioning an authority figure. We may not be flying planes with people on board but we are on the hook for what we do with our databases. Let’s make sure we understand what superiors, vendors, “gurus”, etc. are asking us to do. (I’ve ranted about empirical evidence before, btw)
  • Be Sensible – Look out for the project first. Look out for the goal first. That should help you get into that “Asparagus Planting” mindset I talked about in a post earlier this week. Disagree with something that isn’t important and can really work fine either way? Maybe this isn’t the hill to take, save yourself for the real battle. 😉

That’s all – I’ll close with the opening – Stop expecting people to blindly follow your advice. Stop blindly following the advice of others. Life is a thinking person’s game and the work we do with enterprise databases demands logic and thought.

Do it because I said so…

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4 thoughts on “Best Practices: Explain and Understand Them!”

  1. Excellent.

    I’d also add: don’t blindly follow your own advice. There is no one technical answers that work in every environment, every project or even every day. Context is important for designing a solution.

    • Great comment as always Karen. Absolutely check your own assumptions, check your own knowledge and be aware of where you are instead of just blindly pressing forward because you’ve always done it that way. I wonder if Mr. Camping knew what he was doing or if he was stuck in the trap of convincing himself he was right.

  2. One of the most important principles I learned with regards to this came from a combat veteran, Airborne Ranger with a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, who was one of my TAC officers at The Citadel. He was talking about leadership and how to handle your troops. His very simple advice was this, “When you have time to explain to those whom you lead the why behind the order, you build trust in them so when you have to give an order and there isn’t time to explain why, they follow the order without question. In combat, you don’t have time to explain why. Therefore, you build that trust prior to going into battle.”

    • I like that advice he gave you. That shows you aren’t just giving orders to give orders, teaches those you are leading to be better and it builds that trust that he mentioned. I think that advice or style would be towards the top of a list of what makes a leader different than a boss.


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