Agile Retrospectives

Earlier today I blogged about learning from mistakes/failures, particularly with After Action Reviews. John Smith points out another method, Agile Retrospectives (although he is talking about this in the context of communities of pratice). Learning Alliances » Communities of practice by any other name.

Take a peek at the video… Agile Retrospectives

Learning from our mistakes

Flicr CC Image from David C FosterMichael Krigsman has a good story today on ZDNet about transparency and learning. He analyzes Amazon S3 team’s After Action Review (AAR) process following a disruption in their service. This reminds me of the importance of learning from failures and mistakes, rather than forgetting or covering them up. In fact there is a whole community dedicated to learning from mistakes, The Mistake Bank. Here is a quick recap of the useful practices Amazon deployed when they had a breakdown in their services. I’ve edited out some of the text so as not to cross ZDNet’s copyright, so click into the story for the full details.

Amazon’s S3 post-mortem demonstrates maturity | IT Project Failures |

In analyzing the failure, Amazon asked four questions:

What happened? The first step to a successful post-mortem is establishing a clear understanding of what went wrong. You can’t analyze what you don’t understand.

Why did it happen? After after determining the facts, the post-mortem team should assess why failure occurred….

How did we respond and recover? … A useful post-mortem depends on the analysis team gaining a reasonable level of honesty, insight, and cooperation from the organization.

How can we prevent similar unexpected issues from having system-wide impact? … Planning must also consider the business process and management responses the team initiates when a failure occurs. A complete post-mortem addresses both technical and management issues.

Amazon’s technical failure disrupted its customers’ business and hurt the company’s credibility. However, their open and transparent response to the failure and its aftermath demonstrates a level of organizational maturity rarely found among Enterprise 2.0 companies.

Pulling our mistakes out and looking with them, alone and with the aid of colleagues, is a simple and effective learning practice. But it takes both a personal commitment to productively looking at our warts (rather than simple self-flagellation or guilt) and an organizational culture that values learning along with success. And we all know it… we learn more from our failures than our successes. 😉

Here are a few resources for learning from mistakes and failures (some repeated from embedded links above, but I want to make it easy to scan for the resources!):

Have any to add? Knowledge sharing in action!

Photo Credit: Flickr/CC

Matt and Nancy blather about slow communities

cc on Flickr by by fatboykeWe missed our partner in crime – er- podcasting, Ed (how can life interfere with our podcasts! Alas!) but Matt Moore and I had a fun time yesterday as he recorded our conversation about Slow Communities . We rambled for about 20 minutes, then finished.

Afterwards I said – hm, we didn’t get to any practical ideas about what to DO about volume and speed, and how to be discerning about when to go fast or slow. Matt suggests sending us postcards! 😉 I am copying the whole post here… hm, is that rude of me? I want to annotate the timestamp notes, and this seemed the most efficient way.

Nancy has been writing & talking a lot about “slow community” recently – video, slides & post here & here. Sadly Ed Mitchell couldn’t join us as planned (but we’ll nab him again in the future).

One thing we didn’t tackle in the podcast was the matter of practical tactics: What should community members & coordinators do?

Answers on a postcard please…

Download the mp3

00:00 – Nancy’s conversations about slow communities
03:30 – Matt’s fast community anecdote
* N’s note: what to do/how to respond to unrealistic expectations about speed of community building and expectations of learning through reflection if you don’t take time to reflect!
06:00 – When is slow appropriate?
* and for whom and how do we know if my slow is your fast?
06:30 – The importance of sustainability
* hm, and now that I think about it, also scalability. Is “community” generically scalable? I don’t think so. Does it have costs to sustain? Yup. Are the benefits sufficient and are we willing to pay the freight?
07:15 – Fast is good for social media experiments
* and brainstorming, iterative design, and getting the chores done…
08:00 – We need to learn & reflect
* do leaders role model reflection and learning?
10:30 – Rhythm, pausing & athletics
* I want to dive deeper into this “rhythm” thing…
12:15 – Organisational seasons & hurricanes
14:00 – More is not necessarily better
15:30 – Community obesity
* Oh, I LOVED this one. A Matt Moore gem, for sure. Also Infoluenza…
* Matt forgot to include “community and network speedometers” — what does making the pace visible do to our awareness and subsequent choices/behaviors? A feedback mechanism showing me how many emails I have read/written, groups responded to, blog posts, tweets… and time spent on them? Dunno?
* Multimembership
* How many relationships… and what is the depth/quality of those relationships
17:00 – Networks & communities
* are networks fast and communities slow? I don’t think that is quite it, but something is there…
18:00 – Admitting that you have a problem
* Moi?
20:00 – Mindfulness & self-awareness as critical skills
* It is almost impossible to micromanage in many of our current environments, so self management becomes a critical skill and practice
22:30 – Nancy applies the brakes with meditation
24:00 – What do we really need?

Photo credit, Flickr, CC

view photostream Uploaded on July 14, 2008
by fatboyke

A spot of reflection – shifting from me to we

Dog in the Windo

Window Dog

The dog days of summer are here, and I want to be outside on these glorious, sunny Seattle days. With a long wet winter, we tend to be hyper aware of the magnificence of our Pacific Northwest Summers. Right now there are raspberries and strawberries ripening in my garden. Flowers. Compost to be turned, potted plants luxuriating outside, needing water. The last two days I was up on Whidbey Island, about an hour north of Seattle, sitting on a deck overlooking the water and being blissfully quiet.

Where is the reflection on my work? On my practice. For the most part, right here on this blog. So I wanted to share some of the things I’m thinking about. Today’s is about the shift from me to we.

For the last two weeks I’ve been peeking in and participating peripherally in the South African online event, e/merge. Here is a bit about e/merge for context…

e/merge 2008 – Professionalising Practices is the third virtual conference on educational technology in Africa and builds on the e/merge conferences in 2004 and 2006. e/merge 2008 will take place online from 7 – 18 July 2008 and may include associated face to face events in a number of cities. The conference is primarily designed to share good practice and knowledge about educational technology innovation within the further and higher education sectors in the region, as well as to strengthen communities of researchers and practitioners.

I have been a part the first two e/merges (2004 and 2006). In 2006 we ran a little online facilitation workshop within the event and that was what Tony Carr and I were going to do this year. But through a nice accident, we both were overwhelmed and decided to shift gears to something both simpler and emergent. We decided to host three chats during the two week event around the facilitation of the event, asking the event facilitators and hosts to join us with their thoughts and observations. IT offered not only a simpler structure, but it would provide a little bit of time for reflection within the event. Wow, slowing down!

The chats attracted the event facilitators plus other participants and have been FANTASTIC. The open format with a loose theme somehow created a safe, warm and humorous place where I felt the shift from “me to we” each time. In our last chat today, we talked about how we pay attention to and invite that shift from me to we. Some of the triggers people noticed include:

  • Being acknowledged as a contributor (in a reply, summary, etc.)
  • Getting comfortable (posting, the technology, the people)
  • Having enough space to establish an identity, then letting that go

How do you invite this transition from me to we in your facilitation, online or off? Can you share a story of when you felt or experienced this shift?

Reflecting Slowly on Slow Communities

Slow snailsI promised earlier this week that I would post a follow up about my offering Tuesday night on Thinking about “Slow Community” (particularly online). Before it all (slowly) leaks out of my brain, here are some notes, comments and pointers to the ongoing Twitter conversation about “slow community.”

First, the host of the evening, Ryan Turner, wrote:


You ROCKED it last night. I knew you would. Thanks so much for making the time.

I think your talk pretty much blew everyone’s mind. It certainly got mine spinning, and I really think you’re on to something with the slow community idea. I too question whether it’s really slower or actually less–and I also wonder whether there’s a combination of those that ends up making sense. Do we partition our relationships? Our conversations (across relationships)? How do we manage work, where project groups form, dissolve, and re-form, but relationships (personal, intellectual, thematic) persist? Doesn’t seem to me anybody’s yet invented the social router, which could manage our cross-channel traffic in meaningful ways … though I do have some ideas … not to say a prototype ….

It was great to reconnect with you, just a bit, and I hope we can continue.


Phew. And here I thought I was babbling and incoherent. 🙂 Thank goodness the other folks were all interesting. I enjoyed the offerings from Brian Fling of Flingmedia – Brian, did you talk about slow community at FOO Camp?; Justin Marshall of ZAAZ, Samantha Starmer from REI – Samantha, I have added “metadata strategy” to my online interaction checklist!; and Wendy Chisholm, who has opened my eyes to accessibility – even on a little old blog post – in a way that I needed. Thanks, Wendy!,

After the talks, I had the chance to have conversation with a few folks – unfortunately I did not write down names. I should have. Oi. Here are the points that came up that I can remember.

  • If everything is so overwhelming and fragmented, what are the solutions? (The young guy who loved the chicken wings). I started to babble about a systems approach, but I need to actually understand better what that means. But I SENSE that this is important. True to my style, it usually takes me a while to figure out intellectually what I intuit.
  • What is the role of information FLOW in creating a useful community experience, rather than overwhelm (the guy from Boeing).
  • What is it we are really asking about – slowness, volume, simplicity?
  • What should businesses be thinking about if they are in this crushing phase of “must have community?”
  • What is the role of identity in all of this?
  • And of course, Ryan’s “social router” which has MY head spinning.

On the Twitter front, besides the tweets already posted on the wiki, here is the latest round… thank you my TweetFriends. Oops, can’t do a screen capture. Since Windows did its last update, some of my old programs aren’t working. I was wondering when this was going to happen. Grrr. I’ll come back and edit it in. In the meantime, you can see them on Summize. I’ll go download Snagit and be right back!

(Later… here are the screen captures of the Tweets)

Slow Community Tweets 1

Slow Community Tweets 2

Slow Community Tweets 3