Solely learning from failure isn’t a fundamental—it’s a limitation. A look into the new view of safety, human, and organizational performance and resilience engineering shows us that safety, great performance, and sources of resilience do not come from the absence of failure but rather the presence of adaptive capacity.
Navigating a perfect storm in a world where availability is made up and the nines don’t matter requires expertise. Ryan Kitchens details more rewarding ways to approach incident investigation without overly focusing on failure prevention by asking what’s going on when it seems like nothing is happening; exploring what’s going to keep failure from being worse when it does occur; examining how teams adapt successfully when preventative techniques fail; and diving into how we should prioritize the effort to develop systems that help us safely manage the consequences of failure. These can’t be resolved by trying to explain the causes of failure and fixing remediation items. We move the needle forward and increase our opportunity for learning from success with some fundamental and practical ways that get us from “Why did things go wrong?” to “How did things go right?”
Ryan Kitchens is a site reliability engineer on the CORE team at Netflix, where he works on building capacity across the organization to ensure its availability and reliability. Previously, Ryan was a founding member of the SRE team at Blizzard Entertainment.
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