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Beyond Blame: Learning From Failure and Success Paperback – October 29, 2015

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Beyond Blame is a compelling, well-written story about avoiding some of the most natural and dangerous problems that derail teams."
- Patrick Lencioni; president, The Table Group; author, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage


"Anyone who has assigned, received or witnessed blame resulting from a high profile outage will find this fictionalized story an uncomfortable read. And yet the lessons of how to translate failures into learning are essential for any high performing organization."
- Gene Kim, co-author of The Phoenix Project: A DevOps Novel


"Zwieback's fable feels instantly familiar to anyone who works with complex systems. In his short, rapid fire chapters, he quickly boils down a colossal amount of information to answer the most relevant questions: What keeps us from learning when we fail or succeed? How can we learn better? A fine read."
- Michael Lopp, head of engineering at Pinterest, and author of Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager and Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook


"Let Zwieback take you on a journey straight into the heart of failure, complexity, forgiveness and restorative justice. Well worth your time."
- Professor Sidney Dekker, MA MSc PhD, Safety Science Innovation Lab, Griffith University. Bestselling author of Field Guide to Understanding Human Error.


"A novel approach, explaining learning retrospectively (and the application of Cynefin) through an extended narrative.  Rich context, good understanding."
- David Snowden, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Cognitive Edge, creator of the Cynefin framework.

About the Author

Dave Zwieback has been working with complex, mission-critical I.T. services and teams for two decades. His career spans small high-tech startups, non-profits, and behemoth engineering, financial services, and pharmaceutical firms. To learn more about Dave, the Awesome Postmortems workshop, and other services offered by his firm, Mindweather LLC, please visit mindweather.com or follow @mindweather.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 92 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (October 29, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1491906413
  • ISBN-13: 978-1491906415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #776,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've worked in a variety of IT shops and have had the privilege to work with a number of other people across industries. Blame culture is often at the heart why environments are dysfunctional and fragile. Because of the threat of consequences from mistakes, where even being in the vicinity of an outage can impact one's career prospects, plausible deniability has been raised to an art form - covert operators and their task masters could learn a lot from IT Ops personnel in enterprise. Obfuscation of action and distancing oneself from incidents are core enterprise IT skills.

Beyond Blame highlights this, in the same way that the Phoenix Project introduces DevOps and how Lencioni tackles team dysfunction. Much like the series of books from Lencioni, Beyond Blame starts with a fictional account that most of us who worked in IT can relate to. The book then progresses to provide actionable steps for transitioning to learn from failure without the caustic consequence of blame and reprisal.

Where I currently work, we conduct postmortems for almost every significant event. For a time, I struggled to understand the importance or value to these - as my previous experience with postmortems were targeted to find the responsible person, not for learning how to make things better. Zwieback's treatment of the purpose of postmortems, as a learning tool that can help us make more resilient systems, cemented for me why we do them and why they are important.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Beyond Blame is a revolutionary book about problem solving and identifying the true ways to improve systems. The story that provides the basis for this book is one involving a Financial Services company and a failure of their core network. But the truth is, the approach and methodologies described here can apply to any number of situations. Anybody who has worked in a corporate environment or any kind of technical field will find the events and people described here extremely familiar.

Rather than ascribing blame and seeking a sacrificial lamb, this book shows that true accountability is about reaching the most complete understanding of how failures happened and, thus, how systems can be improved for the future.

There is a lot of rather in depth research that is casually blended into this story. This is a thin volume. But the author cites many other books and research papers. If one were to study all the sources of material used in this book, it might make the basis for a rather useful Masters Degree program.

The treatment of cognitive biases is an area where the author chose clarity over completeness. Clearly, important and relevant biases like "hindsight bias" and "outcome bias" are discussed because they apply to the story but also because they apply to so many situations that readers can relate to. By many other biases are not covered.

The author points out the large number of biases that have been identified in current research. Most notably he mentions Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow." I plan on seeking out some of that research. The bottom line is that there are many biases that hinder our ability to correctly analyze a problem or event and make objective conclusions.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed the way this book was presented- as a story. It's a thin, short book, and it is a very easy read. It presents the story of what happens after a large, financial institution experiences catastrophic failure at a huge financial loss to the company.

Using this story framework, the management team evolves from a blame-game to working through a post mortem process that is very different for them - one in which blame is abandoned, and biases are laid bare so that workers feel absolutely free to deeply examine what happened without fear. The complexity and at times chaos of systems is considered, so the outcomes are more robust, resilient systems.

It's an excellent book for management and workers alike. I used to have to go to training sessions a week long with some really boring materials on root cause analysis, TQI, CQI- it seemed like any improvement process a Japanese firm could come up with, boom, we were WASTING TIME learning it. This book isn't a waste of time- it presents all the principles needed in a nutshell, with excellent documentation if you want to explore further. Because the story is so well presented, it's all quite simple and quick to learn.

This is a good book to pass out to the team, or perhaps just to put in the hands of any executive that really doesn't start to get how very complex today's systems can often be. This book really does a beautiful job explaining the inherent complexity in very large IT systems, but the same could also be applied to integrated or less technical fields.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book presents several ideas that are important to make positive progress in your organizations. Leaders need to understand that a single root cause is not the correct goal. I use these concepts at least weekly. Failing safely and learning from the failure will help the organization grow faster than looking for blame.
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