"Our values" series: Fail and Learn


Oliver Burkhalter

May 10, 2022

"Our values" series: Fail and Learn

“Nobody is perfect”

“Everyone thinks about improving the world, but nobody thinks about changing themselves."

— Leo Tolstoy

"Oops A mistake happened now?”

— Nobody

We all make mistakes right? Unless one is called “Nobody” (… is perfect 😀).I suspect this statement can sign pretty much 99,9999% of the people on earth or at least understand a little.

Although the above statement somehow like “common sense” Feel, you hear from a wide variety of employees that this idea of “every makes mistakes” in the organizations is not really lived.Rather the opposite is the case: don’t make a mistake, don’t dare anything new, you could make a mistake, it could cost us something, etc. (bracket remark: is just my personal perception based on my own experiences and from conversations from my personalEnvironment … i.e. it may be very good that this does not correspond to full reality).

Open error culture and learning organization

“We accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process in which we continuously deal with changes.The most urgent task is to teach people how to learn. ”

— Peter Drucker

For us as a team we noticed that we have one Open error culture Wish, but don’t always really live it out.That is why we decided to accept this as a value for us.In addition, it had become important to us over time that we train a thinking that new things can be tackled without fear that errors are “normal” and that we would like to learn from it.

In short: we want to go towards “Learning organization” move.

We have for ourselves as a team “Fail and Learn” described in more detail as follows:

  • We are brave and open to learn new things.
  • We live humility: no master has yet fallen from heaven.We accept mistakes and learn from it.

Safe to fail, you need suitable role models and experiences

”CEOs can chat about culture all day, but the employees know who the idiot are.”

— Jack Welch

To create a frame where one Open error culture “safe to fail” is possible, it needs matching role models, People who precede and start to live and shape this culture.

And here is primarily people from management, from the management.The management must take the first step here Live integrity And actively live this atmosphere “Safe to Fail”.Of course, all employees are needed for the complete transformation so that this open error culture becomes “standard” in the entire organization.But in a more hierarchical organization it begins “above”, employees are inspired by the actions of the people of “above”, experience good examples of this culture and decide to go along, also to dare to carry it all.

Ein Beispiel aus unserem Alltag

I would roughly say that we are traveling and, compared to before, have improved.A learning experience For example, was the following:

The plan was to use an older technology for a smaller project. With this approach, the estimate was also made roughly and sold.

The corresponding DEV team then decided to use a new technology. Reason: Smaller low-risk project, ideal to apply new things and a greatly improved user experience for the management of the content for the customer compared to the older solution. Another driver was certainly that the DEV team generally committed itself to using this new technology in order to build sustainable know-how in the future.

The DEV team took more time for this project and thus also shot the budget. Comments on the part of the project management/management soon came that projects should be completed as part of the framework (budget, billability, etc.) and the DEV team is actually to blame because it has chosen a different technology.

We were then able to look at that together. Both sides of “Development & Innovation” and “profitable projects” have justified reasons to act and communicate accordingly.

Based on the reaction of the project management level, we could see that we are not yet where we would like to be. “Fail and Learn”.

We later looked together and made some adjustments to our cooperation so that we can better treat such cases with each other and it is transparent for everyone.

Some practices

In den letzten Monaten haben wir folgende Praktiken eingesetzt, die uns erlauben besser “To fail and learn” 😀.

  • Look at larger know-how investments on a project and make the decision together
  • Regular retrospectives in the DEV team
  • introduction Improvement-Kata und OKRs
  • Share of know-how: DEV meetings, blog posts, short “aha experiences” via chat, short videos, etc.

We are currently trying out these practices, it may well be that we say in a few months, “You, don’t bring it, we have to adjust something”.

We stay tuned

Much is not yet lived 100%, we keep falling in Our old patterns Pure, but there is hope.

A lot has gone.The above practices are lived as well as possible, new projects have already benefited from this.

But not all results are always in the visible area, there is also a lot that has changed in “invisible ”area, For example, pure rethinking with yourself, personal clarity with priorities, etc.

Therefore, there is hope 😀 And we continue together.

More from our unser values series

This is the first resp.Second article 😀 To our series unser values.

You can find the other articles from this series here:

Pic Credit: Sam Chivers

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