Chapter 15. The Learning Review

Whenever Bill was running late, he always asked himself “What am I avoiding?” Today, as he slowly walked down the hall toward the conference room, the answer was unmistakable: although he intuitively felt sure about the new way of dealing with failures and outages—grounded in complexity science and human factors—he also wished he could gently ease into this new world with a little less at stake. Instead, he was headed toward what he knew would be a very difficult conversation, revisiting the biggest outage in recent history. His companions on this journey were also recent converts, inexperienced and unaware of the potential shortcomings of this approach. “Don’t try this at home, folks,” he thought as he opened the conference room door, and saw Mike seated on one side of the table, and Ollie, Raj, and Linda on the other.

“Glad you could join us,” Raj said, flashing a mischievous smile.

Bill sat down next to Ollie. “Sorry I’m late.” He cleared his throat. “First of all, Mike, thanks for being here.”

Mike nodded.

“We wanted to redo the postmortem of the network outage, and learn more about what happened. We’re calling this the ‘learning review,’ and it’s going to be a bit different from the postmortems we’ve done before.”

“Well, for one, you can’t fire me,” said Mike.

“I’m glad you brought up the elephant in the room,” said Linda. “Are you worried that this learning review will turn into another blame session?”

“There’s certainly a track record of ...

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