Don’t waste time looking for culprits

As promised I’m starting a series of articles on company culture and how it can affect the quality of your product and service. Here’s the first article.

When mistakes take place, some people naturally tend to react by looking for culprits, especially in group activities. As if having anyone to blame for that mistake was, in some way, make it less harmful. doing this is a great waste of time and energy. Let me explain why. 

A mistake took place. Mistakes happen. That’s a fact of life. No matter what you are doing – building a software, publishing a code in production, operating a patient, cooking dinner, building a house, playing guitar, playing soccer, etc. – there are good chances that mistakes are going to be made. 

When you spend your time trying to figure out who was responsible for that mistake, you will postpone the most important tasks in relation to the mistake:

  • Understand what happened;
  • Figure out how to correct;
  • Find ways to avoid that it happens again.

When you spend your time trying to figure out who was responsible for that mistake, people might naturally try to hide the mistake, fearing the consequences. Will I get fired? Will I be excluded from the group? Will I be punished? Will people make fun of me?

When people try to hide who was responsible, you will end up postponing the most important tasks in order to fix the mistake. It’s is going to be more difficult to understand what happened. People will not tell the whole truth about the mistake and about the circumstances in which it happened. 

If, in the process of understanding what happened, you find out that someone was responsible for the mistake, deal with this person in private. It is most likely that the mistake was caused unintentionally. That’s why you need to help this person to improve so this same kind of mistake does not happen again. 

On the other hand, you are responsible for creating an environment in which is safe to talk about mistakes so they are detected as soon as possible. However, if you find out that the mistake took place with the intention to harm the company, the product, or someone, then you should be resolute on reprehending it, saying that this type of behavior is unacceptable and, if it happens again, you’ll invite the person to leave the group.

High performance and culture

In his book “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” author Charles Duhigg talks about how transparency helps teams be more productive and have better performance. He cites an example where two ICU teams are compared and the best performer is the one where transparency is a key value, mistakes are not only accepted but also embraced as learning opportunities. Group members can discuss openly about mistakes, why they happened and what can be done to prevent them in the future. The other team, where mistakes are not acceptable, mistakes are hidden and no one can learn and improve from the mistakes. As a consequence, the transparent group where mistakes are accepted and discussed has a better performance and make less mistakes than the group were mistakes are unacceptable.

In my next article I’ll discuss about the comparison between business and war. Stay tuned!

Product Management: how to increase the success chances of your software

In 2015 I wrote a book on Software Product Management in Portuguese. In the beginning of 2016, Paulo Caroli talked to me about how he enjoyed the book and how this book could be useful to people in the software industry not only in Brazil but anywhere in the world. For this reason, we decided to create an English version of my book.

The book is organized in 5 sections:

  • Definitions and requirements
  • Life cycle of a software product
  • Relationship with other areas
  • Product portfolio management
  • Where to use software product management

This book is suitable for anyone working with software. Even companies that do not have software as its core business use software in their day to day and often have developed some software that interfaces with its customers such as a website or a mobile application. It is important for these companies to understand the software product management role and responsibilities, so they can better manage this software and increase its chances of success.

We are working on the translation but as we progress we are already releasing the content. If you want to see the work in progress, please visit the book page at LeanPub. Still in beta but already with valuable content. Feedbacks are not only welcome but needed!

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