Another book shoutout "Beyond Blame"

Learning From Failure and Success

Posted by Miguel Pereira on Wed 15 June 2016

A recent family vacation prompted me to pickup more books than I had in a while. While I was checking out Phoenix Project, a recommendation came up. Apparently it was a popular title among those that had bought Phoenix. The book was titled Beyond Blame: Learning From Failure and Success. Really glad I picked it up.

The premise is straight forward: paint an easy story about the prevalent stick & carrot (double stick sometimes) culture that we are so used to, and contrast it with the blameless model. Making sure to establish that blameless is not the same as not being accountable for, but better yet, defining what accountability is -or shoud be.

Lets be honest. We are guilty of pointing fingers. I know I am. I've done it and still do it: "hey, I would've finished that sprint strong, had I not been blocked all 10 days in a row by production outages". Finger pointing knows nothing about color, gender, departments, or borders. It, unfortunately, transcends all. Beyond Blame tries to shine a light on those dark corners we all know are stashed with piles of battle-worn index-fingers past, and show the reader an alternative to deal with failures -because failure is ultimately the judge and jury by which blame is distributed.

There is a lot of reference material cited throughout this book. Lots to investigate and absorb. There is, however, a nice little final chapter: "Chapter 18: The Learning Review Framework". Of which I can hopefully cite a couple of passages without infringing on any copyright.

  1. Set the context of the review
    • Set the purpose
    • Acknowledge that there are complex systems involved
    • Acknowledge that failure is normal
    • Affirm that the intention is to understant those things that went wrong, as well as those that did go right
    • Impermanence of all system states is the root cause, move on and find the conditions that made that possible
    • Human error is a symptom, never the cause
    • Be aware of cognitive bias (hindsight, outcome, availability and fundamental attribution error)
  2. Build a timeline
    • Understand events from the individual's perspective (what, when, how...)
    • Describe, don't explain
    • Collects multiples POVs, the more the better
    • As facilitator, you are there to listen, discover and verify by synthesizing
  3. Determine and prioritize remediation items
  4. Share the learning review

Don't just stick to my word. Its a good read. Its a very valuable read. And it won't take you long. Even if you have a packed schedule and lots on your plate, you will probably gulp it in a few sittings. Don't forget to recommend it to your boss and peers as well. You never know when it will come in handy!

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