There is no best practice

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Agilis conference in Iceland recently. While preparing my slides on Deliberate Practice I was naturally thinking about the word practice. As far as I can tell, "Best practice" is the most common phrase with the word practice in it. I searched for "Best practice" on goggle and got over 270 million hits. I searched for "Better practices" on google and got a paltry 20 million hits.

Best practice…
  • focuses on achieving someone else's perfect future state
  • assumes there is only one best practice
  • implies improvement beyond the best practice is impossible
  • emphasises the noun practice
  • fits with the waterfall-defined-fixed mindset
  • doesn't start from where you are now
Better practises…
  • focuses on improving your own imperfect present state
  • assumes there are many possible better practices
  • implies improvement beyond the best practice is always possible
  • emphasises the verb - to practice
  • fits with the agile-empirical-growth mindset
  • starts from where you are now


  1. Also "Best practice" implies you can't improve anymore. So people stop trying.

  2. "Best practice" is not be the best term, but it may be the best we have. I'm not sure that "Better practices" is better.

    You make some good points but I have a slightly different view.

    To me, "best practice" means, "the current community consensus on which practices are probably better than the others". It's inherently fluid, ephemeral and ambiguous - and yes it covers "practices". I've never met anyone who thinks it implies that there is a single, incontrovertible *best* * practice*.

    While, technically, "better practices" may be more accurate, the "feel" of the term is weaker. It sounds like you may have followed some practices in the past but now you're trying some slightly better ones.
    As I say, that might be perfectly accurate, but it doesn't really, *say* anything, IMHO.

    "Best practice" hints at an ultimate goal. A strong direction. A passion for improvement.

    "Better practices" sounds like a step along the way - but how far back?

    All IMHO, of course.

  3. Hi Phil,
    I agree most developers don't overtly claim a single, incontrovertible best practice. But I'd argue their speech patterns often reveal an underlying "binary" tendency. Listen for how often they say never or always for example.