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Can you give an example of a ‘best practice’ that failed miserably when you tried it?

Debunking Agile ‘Best Practices’

Have you ever wondered if there are best practices in Agile that can guide you to success without fail? 🧩

Well, recently I was asked the question – “Can you give an exampe of ‘best practice’ that failed miseraably when you tried it?”

My answer is simply – “No.”

Because there’s no such thing as ‘Best Practice’ in the Agile world.🙅‍♂️

This isn’t because everything always just worked out, by no stretch, but because ‘best practice’ is a misnomer in our world. 🤔

It’s just not a thing.

Best Practice is a Misplaced Concept in Agile

Here’s a few points on why I believe that ‘best practices’ belong to the simple domain.

  1. Known Problem, Known Solution: ‘Best practice’ belongs in the simple domain, somewhere you know what the problem is, and you know how to solve it. Somewhere that you’re very likely able to write it in a checklist and just follow step by step.
  • One-size Solution Misfit: ‘Best practice’ implies there is one way to solve this problem. Our world is far too messy for that. A single solution can’t fit all problems.
  • Multiple Answers, No One Right One: Even in the complicated work, where if we get the right people together and give them enough time, even enough coffee, they’re not going to come up with a single answer. They’re likely to come up with a series of options and, in that conversation, determine the one they’re going to follow.
  • Complexity Requires Adaptation: Never mind the complex area where really you don’t know what you’re building. You don’t know how to do it. How on earth can you tell how to do anything beforehand? You’ve got to learn it, you’ve got to evolve a way of working, invent things maybe as you go.💡

Pair Programming Failure

I can recall an occasion when I was working as a Developer and Scrum Master with a team and we were struggling.

So, I assumed that the answer was to bring in pair programming, which I’m a huge advocate of by the way.

We were super enthusiastic. In fact, I’d say we came in all guns firing, so to say, and yet the project failed miserably.

But why did it fall flat?

Here are just a few reasons why I believe it failed:

1. Overlooking the Human Element: Often, when things from the Agile world don’t work, it’s because we’re not taking into account this really tricky area, which is the people that are involved. ❌

2. Resistance to Change: Some people are willing to put their feet in the water try out pair programming. But as people are people, there were some who weren’t keen and they were not going to do it.🚶‍♀️

3. Unbalancing the Team: By bringing in pair programming, I inadvertently upset the team dynamic and balance in the wrong direction. 💥

Remember People, Be Adaptive, and Experiment

The failure of pair programming taught me an invaluable lesson, which was always to remember the people in the process. Therefore, my approach involves inviting those who are open to experimenting and learning together.

In Agile, it’s not about finding the perfect ‘best practice.’

Here’s what it’s all about:

1. People-First: Prioritising and remembering the people who are implementing these practices.

2. Adaptive Approach: Adapting to the changing circumstances and shifting needs.

3. Experimentation: Experimenting with different practices and seeing what works best for your specific situation.

If you’re intrigued by this approach and want to learn more about Agile and Scrum methodologies, consider enrolling in my Agile and Scrum courses.

We’ll experiment, we’ll try things out, we’ll find out what works for us for now.”

Learn how to explore, experiment, fail, learn, and repeat!

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Agile Coaches page.

If you are inspired by the idea of an online apprenticeship for a scrum master, visit

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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