Agile “Best” practices: Really?

In practices that are true to Agile values and principles, are there any that are truly best?  If there are “best” practices I can simply plug in, then I have no further need for continuous improvement, right?  Or can I improve on what’s best?  Perhaps we should seek out “better practices”?

The 12th Agile principle from the manifesto states, ” At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior (practices) accordingly.”  Thus, if ever we think we’ve arrived, I suggest we’ve just failed to be agile.  If we feel we are doing what is “best”, we will tend to cease to be transparent, stop inspecting and adapting.

Any Agile development team, like any person, is only on a journey across a spectrum from lower performance to higher performance, from poor to great.  How great we become is limited only by how far we think we have left to go.  “Not that I’ve arrived, but I press on toward the mark…”.  So, through the lens of lean-agile values and principles, let’s look at “best” practices as, at best, better ways of doing things. And let’s press on to discovering even better ways, and “practice” them.

At the end of the day, I’m less concerned about how well we’re doing agile, and more concerned about how well agile is doing for us [the business].  After all, isn’t it business success that we care most about, not Agile per se?

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2 thoughts on “Agile “Best” practices: Really?

  1. Very interesting. I see “best practice” as being used for fully understandable repeatable tasks with “good practice” being reserved for those that are more complex. That way you avoid the best practice trap you are talking about.

    • Thank you for your comment. The distinction is helpful.
      As the Poppendiecks put it in their book “Implementing Lean Software Development”, they state, “There is no such thing as “one best way”. There is no process that cannot be improved. …This never ending continuous improvement process should be found in every software development organization.”
      I believe Mike Cohn also cautions us about the term “best”, so we don’t rest on our laurels and neglect the aspect of continuous improvement.

      ” There is not, and never will be, a list of “Scrum Best Practices,” because team and project context trumps all other considerations. — Mike Cohn “

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