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Google provides insights into its postmortem culture and releases new tool

A recent article not only provides useful information about a knowledge management tool, but also highlights how organisations can share knowledge about their practices for the benefit of others, with the article having been published on Google’s re:Work website. The re:Work site was established in 2015 with the aim of sharing knowledge about and encouraging data-driven HR practice and research.

The article discusses Google’s postmortem culture. Google uses “postmortems” to capture and share the lessons of failure, alerting that “Failures are an inevitable part of innovation and can provide great data to make products, services, and organizations better.”

Google advises that while it has primarily used postmortems to understand engineering problems, a wide range of tech and non-tech organizations can benefit from postmortems as a critical analysis tool after any event, crisis, or launch. Google believes that the influence of a postmortem extends beyond that of any document and singular team, and into the culture of the organization itself. Some of the cultural tenets within its process that they find particularly valuable are:

  • Encouraging blameless and constructive feedback.
  • Removing blame from a postmortem can enable team members to feel greater psychological safety to escalate issues without fear.
  • Focusing on improvement and resilience.
  • Promoting an iterative and collaborative process.

The article also introduces a new re:Work postmortem tool and provides an example of a postmortem. Further postmortem information can be found in chapter 15  of Google’s Site Reliabilty Engineering book.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes (www.bruceboyes.info) is editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (www.realkm.com) and currently also teaches in the University of NSW (UNSW) Foundation Studies program in China. He has expertise and experience in a wide range of areas including knowledge management (KM), environmental management, program and project management, writing and editing, stakeholder engagement, communications, and research. Bruce holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction and a Certificate of Technology (Electronics). With a demonstrated ability to identify and implement innovative solutions to social and ecological complexity, Bruce's many career highlights include establishing RealKM Magazine as an award-winning resource for knowledge managers, using agile and knowledge management approaches to oversee the implementation of an award-winning $77.4 million river recovery program in western Sydney on time and under budget, leading a knowledge strategy process for Australia's 56 natural resource management (NRM) regional organisations, pioneering collaborative learning and governance approaches to support communities to sustainably manage landscapes and catchments, and initiating and teaching two new knowledge management subjects at Shanxi University in China.

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