Co-Authors: Donal Spring

Celebrating failure

Raise the team's collective awareness of product failure root causes

foundation-culture-and-collaboration loop position

No. People

2+

Time

1 hour 30 mins (product inception), 5 mins per share throughout with continuous reflection

Difficulty

easy

Participants

Product Owner, Team Members, Sponsors, Users

What is it?

We find it easy to celebrate and share our success stories. Celebrating failure is all about bringing the team together in an informal and safe environment, where team members can share stories of products that went wrong and the reasons why. It can also be used during the development of a product if and when failures occur, so the collective team have awareness of the root causes.

Failure root causes are written or drawn on large stickies, visible to the team throughout the product development for continuous reflection.

Why use it?

The primary benefit of this practice is to raise the team’s collective awareness of these root causes, arming the team with real world stories for reference if and when they suspect a similar root cause developing. Team members are therefore empowered to say that X action may lead to Y failure down the line, with a reference back to a root cause written on the wall. Transparency of previous failures demonstrates honesty and courage, which builds trust across the team, sponsors and users.

How to do it?

The team gather in an informal and safe environment as part of the inception of a new product. Team members have the opportunity to summarise failure root causes of their stories on large stickies. They then take it in turns to share their stories, and attach their stickies to a highly visible board. Team members can only share a story that they were a part of with first hand experience. A suggested structure is to keep the sharing concise for each story, providing a brief context, the root cause, and the impact to the product. Product Owners, Sponsors, Users are also welcomed to share their experiences of where products went wrong.

If and when new failures are identified throughout the product development, they are added to the board. The team are brought back together to raise awareness. This could be on the fly or part of the retrospective.

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