Making mistakes is OK, as long as you learn from them

We don't see making mistakes as a bad thing. It's the other way around. Something that went wrong will show us where we can learn and what we have to improve. Want to know how? Read on.

Jeroen
Written by Jeroen Founder / CEO / CSO
Posted on
Updated on
Reading time 6 minutes

In our current society, you will often get scrutinized for making mistakes. It's no fun making mistakes: at school, you get a bad grade; at the sports club, you get yelled at. You see it in the news, people are held accountable for their mistakes, and they get fired. Politicians have to step down. There's no learning happening there. At Easy LMS, we take a totally different approach on mistakes.

Why do mistakes happen?

We believe mistakes are inevitable. Humans being humans will make mistakes when working on difficult and challenging things or under time pressure. If you never make a mistake, you stay within your comfort zone, and you don't learn new things, and therefore don't grow .

Calm company

We want to be a calm company. One of the crucial things that will bring us there is safety for people. Being able to make mistakes and learn from them is part of our safe working environment.

We believe the way we work should prevent mistakes from happening. If they do occur, it means we have to improve our systems, instead of doing a quick fix and moving on. The next time around, we are able to spot the mistakes at an earlier stage. Or, even better, prevent them altogether!

How to learn from mistakes

We turn mistakes into a competitive advantage by learning from them.

Know and acknowledge when a mistake happens

Before you can learn from a mistake, you have to know and acknowledge when a mistake happened. Instead of focusing on the negative aspect, though, we are optimistic. We describe how we want to work.

Oh no! Something went wrong

If somebody makes a mistake, we don't blame them for making it. Blaming someone isn't helpful, and it won't solve the problem. It costs a lot of energy and doesn't help people feel safe. We save all that energy learning from the mistake and improving the way we work.

Root Cause Analysis

So, what do we do to fix the issue? We sit down with all stakeholders and do a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to see why our systems and processes in place didn't work to prevent this mistake from happening. When we find the root cause for it, we define the smallest step possible to prevent that mistake from happening the next time.

Crash the product

If a new developer starts, we even tell them to try and crash the site

We take learning from mistakes to quite extreme lengths 😅. For example, our systems should work to prevent a product release from crashing the product (meaning: the website going offline). All developers should rely on the development process to catch all significant issues before their code ends up in production.

However, if something ends up crashing the site after being released, we're not mad at them, and we won't fire them for that. We sit down with all stakeholders involved and take the time to do an RCA, after we brought the site back online.

If a new developer starts, we even tell them to try and crash the site. It shouldn't be possible. And they haven't succeeded yet.

We follow this process for big and small mistakes every day, improving our company's processes on a daily basis .

Why it is challenging

You have to set your ego aside to admit that you made a mistake. For a lot of people, that feat is just too hard to do. Finding the root cause and making an improvement takes time, taking away time you can spend on your deadline or reaching your target .

The improvement will only pay off over time. If you move on to another job, you won't necessarily profit from it. As a company, the incentives have to focus on process improvements instead of targets to change the employees' behavior. At Easy LMS, you get praised for admitting you have made a mistake.

Personal story

Before we discovered the Improvement Kata framework to improve the company, I would always provide solutions to problems I could spot miles ahead. I was frustrated that the teams didn't learn and improve things by themselves until it hit me! I was the obstacle. It was my mistake to provide solutions instead of designing a system that showed problems that needed solving. With my behavior, I was crippling the growth of the company. I learned my lesson. Not anymore!

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