How often do you find yourself anxious and afraid to start something in case you fail, in case you’re not doing it “right”, or in case it doesn’t have the result you expect? Psychological safety makes it safe to fail, but what if we made it impossible to fail in the first place?
We’ve been taught, through many years of detailed plans involving critical paths and gannt charts, and rewarding and celebrating “success” whilst punishing “failure”, to be focussed so tightly on success that we invariably don’t even try, for fear of failure.
Imagine how much we could achieve if we just “tried” every single time we wanted to do something, and if it doesn’t work out as planned, we simply look at what worked well and what didn’t, and tried again.
This is why reframing everything as an experiment is so powerful.
It’s easy to say “we have a blameless culture“, or “it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all”, but if we actually define all our work as experiments, it actually removes the concept of failure. Sure, there are outcomes we want to avoid; if we’re a pilot, then we want every flight to be safe and finish our career without any safety incidents. But it’s unrealistic to assume that nothing will ever go wrong; if we instead always use a variation of the Agile Prime Directive:
“Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.”–Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review
We create an environment where it’s safe to “do”, without fear of failing.
Everything is an experiment.