The Heretic's Guide to Best Practices
The Heretic's Guide to Best Practices
The Reality of Managing Complex Problems in Organisations
Perfect Bound Softcover
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When it comes to solving complex problems, we often perform elaborate rituals in the guise of best practices that promise a world of order, certainty, and control. But reality paints a far different picture, which practitioners are often reluctant to discuss.

A witty yet rigorous journey through the seedy underbelly of organisational problem solving, The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices pinpoints the reasons why best practices don’t work as advertised and what can be done about it.

“Hugely enjoyable, deeply reflective, and intensely practical. This book is about weaving human artistry and improvisation, with appropriate methods and technologies, in order to pool collective intelligence and wisdom under pressure.”
—Simon Buckingham Shum, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK

“This is a terrific piece of work: important, insightful, and very entertaining. Culmsee and Awati have produced a refreshing take on the problems that plague organisations... If you’re trying to deal with wicked problems in your organisation, then drop everything and read this book.”
—Tim Van Gelder, Principal Consultant, Austhink Consulting

Have you ever noticed that infomercials trying to sell you the latest ab-sculpting, fat burning, home fitness device with three easy credit card payments, always start with questions designed in such a way that the answer is invariably “Yes”? We have too—so as a tribute to these infomercials, we are starting this book with some seriously loaded questions.

• Have you ever had the feeling that something is not quite right in your workplace, yet you cannot articulate why?
• Are you required to perform tasks that you instinctively feel are of questionable value?
• Have you ever questioned an approach, only to be told that it is a best practice and therefore cannot be questioned?
• Have you ever sighed and blamed the ills of your organisation on “culture” or “that’s just the way things are done here”?
• Have you ever lamented to others that “If only we got ourselves organised”, we would stop chasing our tails and being so reactive?

If you answered “No” to these questions then, seriously—you are holding the wrong book. What’s more, if you manage staff and you answered ”No” to these questions, then chances are your staff gave you this book to read in the hope that you might learn a few home truths.

For those who said a hopefully emphatic “Yes!”—and we are hoping that’s a fair chunk of our readers—this book might offer you some answers and put some names to some of the things that make your organisational “spider senses” tingle. Bear in mind, you are not going to get any glib “Seven Steps to Organisational Nirvana” type stuff here. Instead, you are about to undertake a varied and, at times, heretical journey into the fun-filled world of organisational problem solving. Not only will this book provide you with some juicy ammunition in relation to organisational debates about the validity of best practices, but the practical tools and approaches that we cover might also give you some insights in how to improve things.

Paul Culmsee (twitter: @paulculmsee) is a consultant, facilitator and sense-maker and has a bachelors degree in Information Science from Edith Cowan University. He co-founded Seven Sigma Business Solutions holds various nerdy certifications, so can mix it with the technical side of IT and Information management. He is one of a handful of Cognexus Certified Dialogue Mappers in the world. He and his wife have the best two children in the world and live in Perth, Australia.

Outside of CogNexus trainers, Paul is the only authorised trainer of Dialogue Mapping world-wide and conducts training around the world. Details of the class and training locations and dates can be found at

Paul also is the author and principal instructor of the two-day SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture Master Class run around the world. Much of the material in this class was inspired from this book. Details of the class and training locations and dates can be found at

Kailash Awati (twitter: @kailashawati) is Head of Service Development, Asia-Pacific at a pharmaceutical multinational. He holds Ph.D.s in physics and chemical engineering along with assorted certifications in project and data management. His professional interests include IT strategy, business intelligence, knowledge management, risk analysis and decision-making in organizations. He writes about these and related topics on his blog, “Eight to Late” (

Kailash has worked in various consulting, technology and research roles in Europe, U.S.A, India, Australia and Singapore (where he resides currently). He and his wife, Arati, have two wonderful children.


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