A "Safe to Fail" Agile Environment

What does it mean to live professionally in a safe to fail environment? How can this be possible, to get paid and fail? How can a corporation afford the failure in a such competitive market? Time is money, how can you spend them in failures? Who is expected to fail and when?

Enjoy the results of the failures

These are some of the questions that cross your mind when you come across for the first time with such a terminology. It doesn't really make sense, unless you experience it and enjoy the results of it. Yes that's right, enjoy the results of the failures because not only are profitable, are also adding value to the quality of the end product, enable self-organizing teams, empower ownership and accountability, enriches experience and makes your customer happier. But still, how can all these be possible by failing? I mean, does it make sense? If all these happen because of failures, what does really happen when u succeed? Good question, isn't it. But still, I believe we should celebrate our failures because of all the benefits mentioned above. Now, let me explain myself what I mean with that!

Reflect the reality to the team

What exactly do we mean, is "safe to fail"? Of course, is not safe to fail every time, but we need to enable such an environment that the employees will feel the freedom to take leadership and ownership, feel comfortable to take decisions and accept the risks and the challenges and take the responsibility. Release to the customer more often and you will be wiser and closer to delivering of what is really needed. Do a proper retrospective and reflect the reality to the team members and make sure they understand what has been done and what could have be done.

Celebrate the failure and built on it

During the iteration, you need to ask the right questions and have discussions with each and every team member. Help them find the right way and don't just show it to them. Have always in mind, that even if you know the right way, it does not necessarily mean that this is the only one. The team may find another path to get things done, or might learn out of their fast failure and act on it with more knowledge and experience. A "safe to fail" environment is cultivated by the right approach and mindset that if we fail fast we will learn fast. Instead of pointing fingers on the failure, just celebrate it, and try to understand why it happened.

Evolve a failure to a success

You need to encourage initiatives and via the right questions assist the team on taking the best possible decision based on what they know. Let them be the first to experience the initiative journey so that they learn from any possible failures that might be on that path. If you know the way do not push it to the team. Let them decide what's best for the team, support it and wait to see the results. Retrospect the actions, identify what went wrong and take one or two action items for the next time so we do not fail again.

Konstantinos Kareklas (Scrum Master/Agile Coach)