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The Followship: Standard vs. Best Practices
by John D. Mitchell
December 24, 2003
Followship vs. Leadership in decision making.


Ben Rothke's recent article, Vince Lombardi: Role Model for CIOs brings up the sad fact that decision makers all too often join the herd rather than actually lead. [This herd behavior is particularly acute (and ironic) in the venture capitalist crowd.]

In my experience, the justification that "we're following industry 'best practices'" is only used for two things: marketing or escaping blame. [Amazing how often those two are in close proximity.] In marketing, it's often used in conjunction with other cliches such as "state of the art" to try to convince people to buy stuff without due diligence. In (attempting to) escape blame, it's used to shirk due responsibility for a failed project. The latter always reminds me of Mom saying "If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump to?"

Alas, even worse is that I'm finding many people have switched from "standard practices" to "best practices" in common use. Partly this is just the usual marketing inflation of couching the Popular in the cloak of the Good. Caveat emptor. However, the part that concerns me most is that in way too many cases the common practices of the herd are mediocre if not outright terrible.

Lombardi exemplifies various facets of the cure for this debilitating followship such as preparation and trust.

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About the Blogger

John D. Mitchell is the Chief Architect of Krugle -- a search engine for developers. Along with developing and rescuing distributed enterprise systems, John advises investors and executives on technology and high-tech companies. Over the past 15 years, he has been the CTO of ElasticMedia,, jGuru and the MageLang Institute. John co-authored "Making Sense of Java: A Guide for Managers and the Rest of Us." He was the founder and contributing editor of the "Tips & Tricks" column at JavaWorld. John writes extensively on complex systems, development processes, computer languages and protocols, parsing and translating, and technological business risk management.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2003 John D. Mitchell. All rights reserved.

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