Let’s stop calling Scrum, Agile, XP, etc, “Best” Practices

Let’s stop calling Scrum, Agile, XP, etc, “Best” Practices

Let’s instead call them what they are: Practices

If you really are enthusiastic about something you can call it a “good” practice.

It’s fine to say that “Java” or “Scrum” is a “language” or “practice” or “good language” or “good practice”.

But calling Scrum or Java the best language, or best practice is quite silly despite how prevalent this has become.

Calling something a “Best” practice is:

  1. Not provably true
  2. Even if provably true, or even mostly true for a given subset of developers/projects would only apply to that given subset, making “Best” at worst useless and at best needing qualification
    Eg, “Best for Device Driver Development with Small, Colocated Teams”
  3. Is unnecessarily divisive and gives short thrift to consideration of other alternatives (Well, if “a is Best Practice, then b is obviously a worse practice”)

I myself am quite tired of hearing that “XP” or “Scrum” is a “best practice” for “iterative and agile development”.

It’s untrue.

What is true is that XP and Scrum are PRACTICES for iterative and agile development.

Whether they are even appropriate for this or that given project and team is debatable.

Whether they are best or not for any given situation is open to discussion.

Whether they are best for ALL situations is obvious: no one approach is “best” for all applications.

When someone describes something to you as a “best practice” — it’s hype and marketing, it isn’t a rational analysis.

One man’s best is another man’s worst. Someone’s “best” restaurant might be to you only mediocre.

XP and Scrum are merely practices. Sometimes they might work, sometimes they might work best, and many times they work worst.

Calling them “best practices” merely reinforces their marketing machine that it has been proven to be best. It has not.

It is merely the opinion of people who feel that it worked for them, and/or sell services in that area.

I hope my fellow developers will resolve with me to stop referring to anything they like as a “best” practice and call it what it is: a practice.

(Disclaimer: Although I agree that grounded wiring in the bathroom is a “best” practice in electrical wiring, that is also something that has been objectively proven to be true. That is a lot different from the above usages of “best” which have not been objectively proven to be true)

About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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2 Responses to Let’s stop calling Scrum, Agile, XP, etc, “Best” Practices

  1. PostAgilist says:


    That’s a typical Scrum non answer.

    It’s also not the question I asked 🙂 I didn’t ask what should I do to improve Scrum in “my” local project, I asked what what you would do to change and improve Scrum in general.

    Scrum is not just simple, it’s overly simplistic and essentially a soup stone.

    Additionally you seem to be saying that “Scrum out of the box” is “as good as it possibly can be” “without extension by the user”…. Something I find amazingly hard to believe.

    Finally you say that “every” shop reconceives Scrum. That is not my experience and it seems false on the face of it. Maybe some do. Certainly not “every”.

    Most of the shops that I see were failing before using Scrum and are failing after using Scrum.

    They don’t know enough about management to run a project in any methodology, and grasp at Scrum straws because they hear good things about it and it seems simple enough that even a relatively inexperienced manager/team thinks they can do it.

    They are in no position to evaluate what they should do next, because if they were in such a position, they probably woudn’t have been failing prior to their use of Scrum, let alone after their use of Scrum.

    Which is another reason I think it’s dangerous and irresponsible for Scrum to be so widely marketed when, to make use of it “properly”, one would have to be a sophisticated enough team/manager to not need a canned approach like Scrum in the first place.


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