The illusion of best practices

When we are kids, we like to believe that world is a simple place.

Our teacher in playgroup or prep or nursery classes would tell us that “Sun rises from the East and sets in the West”. We like this simple concept because it is in accordance with our daily observation and more importantly it is an easy concept to digest for a kid of just a few years age.

As we grow, we are told that Sun is not rotating but it is our Earth that rotates which gives us an effect of Sunrise and Sunset. As we get into higher classes, we are told that Earth also rotates around it’s own orbit and Sun has many other planets. We are then told that Solar system is just one of the so many Galaxies in the space. We are told that we are living in an ever expanding Universe and we are told of something known as Black Holes and theories of Big Bang. We are told that we are not certain if we are expanding or moving to a certain point or we are just hanging around. This very complex nature of the Universe is simplified for us as kids to believe that world is easy: “Sun rises from the East and sets in the West”.

Similarly when we start our professional study or professional career, we like to believe that world is a simple place. There are some rules that if we follow, we can be successful in our business. If we add these magical lines in our CVs, we’ll get our dream jobs. If we network in these best ways, we can excel in anything we want to achieve. We tend to believe that there are some “best practices” that if we get to know and master them, we’ll be the champions in what we do.

This is as simplified version of the world as simplifying the Universe to Sun rises and Sun sets.

The only best practice is that there is no best practice


This Dilbert strip was taken from here:

What we forget when we are in search of best practices is that world is a complex place. Each individual has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, each of us operate in a different region of the world in contrasting cultures, each of us have different values and different meanings of the outcome. What works for me may not work for you. What we need to do is to understand the situation, apply some practices, evaluate the results and keep tweaking them.

You may be tricked to say that see here is the best practice:

Understand the situation, apply some practices, evaluate the results and keep tweaking them

If you are thinking in this way, this is due to the reason that we don’t want to leave our childhood and we love stories and we love simplified versions of the world. The above is not a best practice.

Read more about why there are no best practices in testing or in general.

What are your thoughts on best practices?


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8 responses to “The illusion of best practices”

  1. Qamar Tarar says :

    Very good and interesting article.

    This illusion make us curious.

    As written in Article , the best practices mostly apply to individual lesson learned. We can also have best practices based on a particular project under particular team of individuals, under specific conditions and atmosphere. Mostly best practices are useful for those who had these practices. Of course you can apply best practices of others for you but still you have to make these your own best practices.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. sidrakaukab says :

    I completely agree with your point here, most of the times there are no absolute for good and bad. It’s all subjective. What’s THE BEST thing to do for me in the given circumstances, could be THE WORST thing to do for someone else, somewhere in the middle of a different situation. We must stop impressing our ideals on others and we must also stop trying to fit ourselves in to the shoes of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • majd says :

      Thanks for endorsing the concept Sidra. You are absolutely right on the suggestion to stop impressing our ideas on others and a better way would be to “discuss the situation and see how ideas from the other situations can be applied”.


  3. Ruma Dak says :

    Good One! Liked the analogy you used to show how simple things grow up into bigger complex ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nasir says :

    Very well written. One should always keep on finding the practices which are best for him/her and then try to follow them. For example if an organisation holds an annual convention at same place, with same kind of delegates, serve almost same food every year (as tradition), and have similar kind of seating and other arrangements, then it is better to learn the best practices (based on previous year experiences) and master them.


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