How a strong team culture helps the team heal

Making errors is part of the job. We don’t know what and when but we know that will happen. It can happen many times a day or a week, at work as well as in our everyday lives. Someone says that the only way to avoid mistakes is doing nothing. I disagree. Sometimes, not taking action is the mistake. And it’s fine.

Photo by Varvara Grabova on Unsplash

Errors are part of life, of our learning process of our evolution. Mutations are errors in DNA replication. Some mutations improve adaptability to the environment. Many profound discoveries and inventions were simply mistakes made by scientists on alternative quests (E.g. penicillin, pacemaker, chocolate chips cookies).

Creating a safe environment for teams, especially in IT, doesn’t mean just running retrospectives and hearing everyone’s voice. Safety is not just about trust, autonomy, giving some slack or time for experimentation. There are some aspects at organizational level but also other dynamics at team level.
It is important to establish the correct team culture so that everyone is supportive and comfortable not only when succeeding but also in the middle of critical moments. You need your team at their best, focused and positive while responding to incidents, restoring systems after failure, reacting to attacks, when under external pressures or internal difficulties. This process doesn’t happen in a day.

You need to get any occasion to coach the team and train them to respond in a productive way without losing time, confidence and trust in each other. It can be that your DevOps, QA, SRE or Developer broke the build, lost latest progress, deleted a configuration or a database or a branch, set the wrong feature flag, didn’t activate a cloud policy or any of the other millions of possible actions and operations that statistically everyday goes wrong in some part of the world at any time.

What I usually teach the team is:

  1. Pause, Think, Ask.

The aim is not to spend a fortune in time, money, tools, resources to have perfect systems, perfect days for perfect teams, in perfect organizations.
The goal is to learn, reduce costs and footprints, improve, increase awareness.

After going through post-mortem meetings, as Scrum Master, Agile Coach, Manager or Facilitator, check on the team. Look for signs.
Did the failure lead to scapegoating or retaliation? Are the messengers “shot” or neglected? Is there any bullying or mocking attitude? Are there excessive or repetitive jokes about one’s mistake or weakness? Are the responsibles asking forgiveness and saying sorry too many times due to a previous mistake?
Talk to them. One to one and in a team. They need to support each other and move on.

Generative organizational culture which is based on high-trust and emphasizes information flow is predictive of software delivery performance and organizational performance in technology. The idea that a good culture that optimizes information flow is predictive of good outcomes is based on research by sociologist Dr. Ron Westrum. Westrum’s research included human factors in system safety, particularly in the context of accidents in technological domains such as aviation and healthcare.

In summary:

  1. Mistakes happen. More often than what we think.

I write about organizational patterns, transformational leadership, healthy businesses, high-performing teams, future of workplace, culture, mindset, biases and more. My focus is in leading, training, and coaching teams and organizations in improving their agile adoption. Articles are the result of my ideas, studies, reading, research, courses, and learning. The postings on this site and any social profile are my own and do not represent or relate to the postings, strategies, opinions, events, situations of any current or former employer.

This article has been published for the first time on by the author Daniele Davi’.
© Daniele Davi’, 2021. No part of this article or the materials available through this website may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, broadcast or reduced to any electronic medium, human or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of the author, Daniele Davi’.

Originally published at on March 13, 2021.

Human, explorer, engineer, author, lifelong learner and passionate agile coach.

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