Psychological Safety Newsletter #36: Classrooms and Just Culture

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety Newsletter #36: Classrooms and Just Culture

Edmondson- psychological safety- what to say when you're not the boss

Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You are awesome. This week includes schools and education, “Just Culture”, Infosec, remote teams and much more. Enjoy, and have an excellent day.

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This newsletter is sponsored by Conflux.

Conflux is the leading business consultancy worldwide helping organisations to navigate fast flow in software. We help organisations to adopt and sustain proven, modern practices for delivering software rapidly and safely.

We’ve recently been reading ‘The Fearless Organization’ by Amy C. Edmondson, and Sophie Weston, Principal at Conflux, has put together some key takeaways from the book in this article

Psychological Safety In the Workplace: Kimberly Johnson and Christopher Porter spoke to Gene Kim on Leadership at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2021 (registration required), and Kimberly made some great points highlighting the importance, indeed, the foundational necessity, of psychological safety for high performance organisations, learning from mistakes, generating ideas and making better decisions. 

In this InfoQ article, Jessica DeVita (Netflix) and Nick Stenning (Microsoft) share some of what they’ve learned from the research community in learning from production incidents, and offer some advice on the practical application of this work. Notably: 

  • More and more software systems are becoming “safety-critical”
  • Software teams generally analyze failure in ways that are simplistic or blameful
  • There are many intuitive traps teams may fall into, particularly the idea that human error is to blame for incidents
  • The language used by investigators and facilitators is crucial to learning
  • Teams can protect learning by keeping repair planning discussions separate from investigation

Here’s a great article by Kate Neilsen in HRM, about the “next step” after psychological safety. And naturally, it’s experimentation. “Experimenting in your work is actually a lot of fun,” Neel Doshi says. “It’s very motivating. If you have a job where you feel you can try things, see what works, try something different, and feel creative, you will be much more motivated to do that work.”

Of course, I agree 🙂
Many of you will be aware of Sidney Dekker and his work around human error and the concept of “Just Culture”. Here’s a great Youtube video – “Just culture: The Movie”. This film documents the transformation in one organisation — Mersey Care, an NHS mental health trust in the UK. In the trust, blame was common and trust was scarce. Dismissals were frequent and caregivers were suspended without a clear idea of what they might have done wrong. This video describes the journey of people in Mersey Care toward a just and learning culture where people feel more valued, possess greater psychological safety, and mistakes create learning, not punishment.

Here’s a super article which is based on a talk by Saielle DaSilva: “Stronger Product Cultures are founded on psychological safety, which is one of the most crucial ingredients in teams that outperform against their competition and yet, few leaders know how to cultivate this vital factor of team success.”

This episode of Bam! Radio (a great education podcast) with Dan Jones with Alice Bouis and Dennis Griffin looks at Psychological Safety: What It Is, Why It Matters in Every Classroom and Every School.

And still on psychological safety in education – this is a great article on the HMH website about creating an Engaged, Psychologically Safe Classroom, by Dustin Bindreiff. 

Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:

Here’s a great PhD paper by John Muldoon on “Educational Resiliency in the Era of COVID-19” – focusing on educational leaders and how they navigated their schools and institutions through the Covid-19 crisis. The conclusions are powerful: inclusion, transparency, and data are key, but leadership teams that intentionally fostered psychological safety permitted rapid organisational response.

And here’s a piece in “Bariatric Times“: Raising the Standard: The Relation of Psychological Safety to Patient Safety and Quality Metrics and Provider Wellness by Kristen Demertzis. et al. It’s nothing ground breaking, but it is a good write-up of the literature and theory of psychological safety in application to patient safety.

Another paper from the BI Norwegian Business School! This one by Mathias Heimdal, and Sindre Seland Hellesmark shows that inclusive leadership and psychological safety were found to be effective in engendering employee engagement and significant in virtualandremote contexts.

I’ve written about psychological safety and information security previously, but here’s the first study I’ve found that explicitly shows that psychological safety contributes to discussions on security concerns in development teams. Software Security Culture in Development Teams: An Empirical Study

Given the rather large volume of information that I’m gradually accumulating through this newsletter, I’ve decided to aggregate a few of the subjects into core pages on

Here’s a collection of all the resources so far on psychological safety in healthcare.

And here’s a collection of everything so far on psychological safety in eduction, academia and teaching.

Things to do and try: Here’s some stuff from Think Remote, if you work with or in remote teams7 Strategies to Improve Your Remote Team’s Psychological Safety.
 I love this from Jan Keck: just like building a campfire, you can’t start it by lighting the big log.

Finally, thanks to Amy Edmondson for this one: Amy Edmondson – Mini-scripts for psychological safety, Part 2: how to say it when you’re not the boss:

Also, a massive shout out to Stephanie, Romy, Paul, Samantha and Benedict in the psychsafety community for helping to re-launch the psychological safety meetup! Further details to come, but we’re hoping for the first meetup to be in the new year. Keep an eye on the newsletters for more details, or head over to the community!

This week’s poem:
“You took the last bus home”, by Brian Bilston. (@brian_bilston on Instagram)
 you took
the last bus home

i still don’t know
how you got it through the door

but you’re always doing amazing stuff

like the time
when you caught that train

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