You can scale culture through sharing. Puppet’s 2018 State of DevOps Report tells us operationally mature organizations adopt practices that promote sharing. People want to share their successes, and when people see something that’s going well, they want to replicate that success. It may seem counterintuitive to share incident reports because it seems like you’re sharing a story of failure rather than success. The truth is, practicing blameless postmortems leads to success because it enables teams to learn from failure and improve systems to reduce the prevalence of failure. Framing incidents as learning opportunities with concrete resulting improvements rather than a personal failure also increases morale, which increases employee retention and productivity.
Sharing the results of postmortems has two main benefits: 1. It increases system knowledge across the organization. 2. It reinforces a blameless culture.
By sharing learnings from incident analysis, you help the entire organization learn, not just the affected teams responsible for remediation. PagerDuty sends completed postmortems via email to an “Incident Reports” distribution list that includes all of engineering, product, and support, as well as all Incident Commanders (who may not be in any of those departments.) This widens system knowledge for everyone involved in incident response.
We encourage teams to learn postmortem best practices from each other by hosting a community of experienced postmortem writers available to review postmortems before they are shared more widely. This ensures blameless analysis through feedback and coaching while postmortems are being written.
We also schedule all postmortem meetings on a shared calendar. This calendar is visible to the entire company, and anyone is welcome to join. This gives engineering teams the opportunity to learn from each other on how to practice blamelessness and deeply analyze incident causes. It also makes clear that incidents are not shameful failures that should be kept quiet.
Being transparent about system failure reinforces a culture of blamelessness. When postmortems are shared, teams will see that individuals are not blamed or punished for incidents. This will reduce the fear of speaking up when issues inevitably occur. Creating a culture where information can be confidently shared leads to a culture of continuous learning in which teams can work together to design improvements.
- Create a community of experienced postmortem writers to review postmortem drafts and spread best practices.
- Schedule postmortem meetings on a shared calendar, open for any interested parties to listen and learn.
- Email completed postmortems to all teams involved in incident response to share learning and reinforce blamelessness.