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Why you should fail fast and publicly

Written by: Peter Messana - CEO

CEO Blog // September 23, 2020

Many of my blogs start on LinkedIn, either through a conversation with someone or by a post I make that I then immediately realize is longer than a short LinkedIn post. This one is no different and garnered a ‘viral’ post in my very micro definition, meaning more than just my family friends commented on it.

The post was about one of our company values, “Fail fast and publicly”. This value is so important to us that we have a Slack channel dedicated to celebrating our failures, it is the #wall_of_failure. Here, employees post their personal failures, you don’t point out others’ mistakes but rather your own. This is arguably the most important of our six values as it embodies everything I believe in, in regards to trying new things and moving fast.

Fail fast and publicly – Always try new things and iterate, no one is perfect, make mistakes and share them. Mistakes we have learned from are mistakes worth making.

You will fail, it is inevitable, but how you handle it is what defines you. The key to success is the ability to take risks and chances, thereby increasing your chances of success, but along the way you will fail, the trick is to fail fast and publicly. The quicker you acknowledge the failure the faster you can iterate to something better and doing so publicly inside the company allows others to learn from your mistakes. Additionally, it drives a culture where people are not afraid to make mistakes and can openly admit when they did something wrong.

The greatest example someone ever told me was in terms of DevOps, imagine if your best DevOps Engineer made a mistake and took down your site but didn’t tell anyone that they made the mistake, typically out of fear of retribution. No one would learn from the mistake to avoid it in the future. The key here is that you can’t have retribution for failures and you must celebrate them. In the same example, if the DevOps Engineer makes a mistake and you fire them for the mistake, what sort of culture are you building? You are building fear of mistakes and thereby making people hide them.

This key company value helps us build trust across our organization, it helps everyone learn and sends the signal that it is okay to make a mistake. The worst mistake made is the one that is never told.

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