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Fallible Humans: Dealing With Failure In The Absence Of Scapegoats

Fallible Humans: Dealing With Failure In The Absence Of Scapegoats

Functional siloing - "dev", "ops", etc. - make it easier to pass the buck and blame others when things go wrong. In an environment where dev, ops, and other business functions co-operate and work together, it's not so easy to fall back on traditional scapegoats. DevOps approaches encourage us to move away from the harmful (and counterproductive) apportioning of blame for failure, but it takes effort and commitment from all involved.

I'll discuss the philosophy and motivations of "blamelessness", along with ways to understand the vital role humans play in making complex socio-technical systems safe, even when things go awry, along with advice on how to promote and foster a blameless culture in your workplace, and techniques for analyzing and learning from failures without resorting to finger-pointing and scapegoating.

This talk was originally given at DevOps Days Minneapolis on 18 July, 2014: http://devopsdays.org/events/2014-minneapolis/

A transcript is available at http://ind.ec/fallible

Ian Malpass

July 18, 2014
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  1. Fallible Humans Dealing With Failure In The Absence Of Scapegoats

    Ian Malpass, Etsy @indec
  2. "Jerusalem Ugglan 1". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

    - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jerusalem_Ugglan_1.jpg
  3. By Rodhullandemu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via

    Wikimedia Commons GET IN THE CAR GET IN THE CAR NO TIME TO EXPLAIN NO TIME TO EXPLAIN
  4. “Fire of Troy" by Kerstiaen de Keuninck (Coninck) - http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/fchstudents/view/133880?page=69.

    Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
  5. It’s not me, it’s you

  6. Dev Ops Legal Marketing Support Finance Security

  7. Dev Ops Legal Marketing Support Finance Security

  8. With the unknown, one is confronted with danger, discomfort, and

    care; the first instinct is to abolish these painful states. First principle: any explanation is better than none. ! Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight Of The Idols
  9. A person who has been punished is not thereby simply

    less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment. ! B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity
  10. Failure is an emergent property of a complex system

  11. Chalk Farm Banksy by grahamc99 https://flic.kr/p/39M4pM

  12. We should learn from our mistakes

  13. You don’t come to work to do a bad job

  14. Get the feature out on time Don’t have any bugs

    Don’t use too many resources
  15. Monitor everything Alert appropriately Avoid alert fatigue

  16. Efficiency ! ! ! Thoroughness

  17. If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have got

    anywhere. ! Marilyn Monroe
  18. Every day I’m ETTOing

  19. Why?

  20. Trust and understanding

  21. Don’t blame yourself

  22. Blamelessness is more fun with friends

  23. Practice makes perfect as close to perfect as we can

    hope for in a complex system based on reasonable expectations
  24. Looking back, we should have eliminated hindsight

  25. Could have, would have, should have

  26. There is no root cause

  27. Seek good remediation items

  28. Process is an embedded reaction to prior stupidity ! Clay

    Shirky, Wikis, Grafitti, and Process
  29. Communicate and advocate

  30. etsy.me/justculture

  31. Good luck