July 8th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As subRedditors saw it, cscareerthrowaway567 made one mistake. The company made several. It didn’t back up the database. It had poor security procedures and a sloppily-organized system that encouraged the very error cscareerthrowaway567 made. Then, rather than taking accountability for those problems, the CTO fired the rookie who revealed them. Of all the errors this company made, that last might be the most destructive to their future success.
An extensive review of employee teams at Google found that the most successful were those with a high level of psychological safety. In other words, when employees felt safe enough to take risks (and make mistakes) without being shamed or criticized, they did better work.
“The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible. Yet organizations that do it well are extraordinarily rare,” wrote Amy Edmondson, the Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “psychological safety.”
For a rare example of a better company response, let’s look back at the engineer error that caused an Amazon server outage on Christmas Eve 2012, which disrupted Netflix and other services that relied on the company for cloud computing. Amazon wrote a detailed account of the event, explaining how the outage occurred, how it was resolved, and what had been changed to prevent the problem from happening again. The focus was on fixing the problem, not blaming the individual.
“For all that’s wrong with Amazon, the best part was when someone fucked up, the team and the company focused only on how we make it never happen again,” a former employee wrote on the forum. “A human mistake was a collective failure, not an individual one.”