Fail, Learn, Reset, Transform!

Posted by Willy-Peter Schaub on Fri 31 March 2023

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

In Fail, Learn, Reset I explored how I encourage everyone in my team and our group to accept failure as an opportunity to learn and how we are trying hard to eradicate the fear of failure that often accompanies the imposter syndrome. In conversations, I realized that the Fail, Learn, Reset post was very engineering focused, but that the concept of learning from failures applies to everything.

FAILURE comes in many shapes and sizes. Here are a few of many definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  • lack of success
  • a falling short
  • a fracturing or giving way under stress

Personally, I prefer to think of FAILURE as an "unexpected outcome" of doing, trying, evolving, or experimenting.

Unexpected Result

Which brings me to "transform" in today's blog post title.

It is about how (I / we) can transform

When we look at the continuous circle of doing, trying, evolving, experimenting, reflecting, learning, and adjusting, it is important to realize that the LEARN + ADJUST steps are crucial.


We need to reflect and transform continuously, otherwise we enter the world of insanity.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

Two anti-patterns that drive me crazy:

  • Paralysis - If you have ever had the displeasure of working with a team that turns every retrospective into a complaining, venting, and blame saga, you know what I mean. Instead of reflecting, learning, and deciding how we / I can change (transform) to make the next iteration better, these paralyzed teams drown in misery and hope for change that never comes.
  • Stagnation - We have done it this way for decades and it has always worked for us. Sure, the postal office worker stamping envelopes by hand is doing a great job, but not in an efficient way. As a result the worker will always be too busy to embrace new ways of automating and improving the stamping; giving relief and spare time to experiment and innovate.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy

Next time you get to the learn and adjust stages, take a step back, breathe, and then ask yourself:

  • What have we / I learned?
  • What can we / I improve before we re-try?

OMG, not another reorganization!?!

Another great example is when we as a group announce that we are going to reorganize again. The paralyzed teams will once again spiral into a dark place, while teams with a healthy Agile and DevOps mindset will embrace the opportunity to change.

Yes, we tried and experimented with a new structure for a year. We realized that we have not managed to evolve to where we wanted to be. We learn from the experience, we adjust (reorganize), and we embrace new ways.

See change as an opportunity, not as a threat!

"What makes humans different? Our ability to adapt to change; the more we do it, the more comfortable we are with this disruption as an opportunity." - Martin Lacey

Embrace change!