Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Best Practices?

The BBC reports that the UK Local Government Association has a new banned words list, including our favorite, “best practices.”

Andrew asked me in email if this was a best practice, and I wrote back:

Does it pass the seven whys test?

  1. Why did they ban the phrase? Because it’s meaningless business
  2. Why is it meaningless business speak? Because it removes context
    and appeals to authoritarianism
  3. Why does it appeal to authoritarianism? Because it simply asserts
    bestness without proving it.
  4. Why does it assert bestness? We’re not sure, but its probably
  5. Why aren’t you sure? We’re lazy ourselves. We hear it’s a best

Nope. Not a best practice, even if it is highly advisable.

5 comments on "Best Practices?"

  • alex says:

    Test Comment

  • adamo says:

    Does it pass the seven whys test?

    Shouldn’t that be “five” instead of “seven”?

  • Adam says:

    Adamo-It’s only a best practice if you can ask “Why” seven times and get good answers.

  • Chandler says:

    “The 7 why’s test.”

    Is that the Best Practice for Best Practice selection?

  • Adam says:


    Heck yes!

    More seriously, it’s a demonstrably effective way I’ve pushed on best practices and figure out if they withstand scrutiny.

    The seven is empirically based. Nothing that doesn’t make it through 4 “whys” is an actual best practice, most stuff that makes it through seven is.

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