Altisource Labs, Hut8Labs, post-mortem

How to Run a post-mortem with Humans (not Robots)

Thanks to all that joined us at Altisource Labs for our software development advisory board and presentation from Dan Milstein from Hut8Labs on running a valuable post-mortem. It was a conversation we can all relate to on what it takes to be succussful when you are convening a group of people to talk about failure and what went wrong. Dan says “it starts with having to deal with people that have shame”.  You may think you won’t feel shame, but per Dan, people will definitely experience it when it really happens.  

Dan stressed the importance of having your team adopt an economic not a moral mindset.  Turn it into a dollars and cents conversation and fundamental to success,  make them laugh!
3 tips:
  1. share your personal “bad things”
  2. mock hindset bias to its face
  3. relish absurdities of your system
And 3 givens, which if you start here, good things can happen:  
  1. Realize you are running postmortems to find improvement. You have to leave the room with identified improvements and follow through to make sure they got done
  2. Everyone involved is competent
  3. Everyone involved acted in good faith
A few recommendations from Dan and the audience:
  • Don’t look at just the trigger – look at the entire problem cycle (TTR, time to repair) 
  • We don’t really care about “root cause’  usually multiple things go wrong.
  • Push people to be creative about small steps.  
  • Don’t delay in running the post-mortem after a failure. unless your team has been up all night, even the next day can be best.
  • Make sure the right people are in the room – this can lead to an unsuccessful outcome
What are your tips for running a successful post-mortem? Please feel free to share in the comments section 
Dan’s presentation can be found here.  Follow him @danmil @hut8labs
Following the post-mortem discussion, we launched into a conversation on what the group would like to focus on for 2014. There were a number of challenges highlighted below that we can tackle throughout the year.  If you or a company you know are strong in this area, or if you are interested in helping to shape the event, please email me.
  1. Security in the Cloud – March 21st
  2. Open Source – Survey Results Revealed – April 10th
  3. For you gamers, we will be hosting the PAX pre-party at Microsoft NERD the night of April 10th
  4. DevOps – March/April
  5. Data Engineering vs. Data Science
  6. Keeping an engineering organization moving fast. Making the right investments at the right time.  Scaling.
  7. Continuous delivery and testing
  8. Lean startup – applying lean when you aren’t a startup
  9. Compliance rules through verticals.  How do you react quickly when new rules and regulations are hitting you from outside organizations.
  10. Tales from the trenches on integrating acquisitions.  
We will be reaching out to CTOs and VPs of Engineering soon for a new peer group.  If you are interested in getting involved with this group, please email me.  Thanks to everyone that joined us, to Dan for presenting and to the Altisource Labs team for the great apps and drinks at Trade.  

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