John Allspaw says any ‘after-action’ or ‘postmortem’ document (in my domain of web operations and engineering) has two main goals:
- To provide an explanation of how an event happened, as the organization (including those closest to the work) best understands it.
- To produce artifacts (recommendations, remediations, etc.) aimed at both prevention and the improvement of detection and response approaches to aid in handling similar events in the future.
It got me thinking about our goals with “lessons learned” here at Gravity Switch. Ultimately the goal is to reduce future errors through:
- Accountability – There’s nothing like writing “I made that same mistake that I made last week again”, or reading it when someone else writes about it.
- Sharing Knowledge – Here’s some things that worked well, and some that didn’t.
- More Eyes – “Many hands make light work” is especially true of pattern recognition. Some of the best moments in lessons learned are when someone writes a note in the margin that says “I always thought the opposite”.