This paper uses empirical field research to examine whether short-term best practice interventions (BPIs) can lead to improvements that are sustained in the long term. In addition, this research investigates the implied conflict between striving for short-term results and achieving long-term development of capabilities. It also examines the tension between the lack of resources of the typical small and medium sized enterprise (SME) users of BPIs and the time required to develop a critical mass of capability. A longitudinal case-based study of eight SME contexts examined BPI outcomes and factors leading to short- and long-term success and sustaining best practices. The research identifies factors related to the intervention context, implementation and change-agent approach. The data indicate that in resource-limited SMEs BPIs are limited in their ability to develop adequate capability for long-term change.