Kevin Hall – Learning to Succeed by Failing

We are all familiar with some of the following phrases:

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” – Alexander Pope

“To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.” – Paul Ehrlich

“Fail fast, fail often”

“Fail fast, fail cheap, and fail often”

“Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

“We aim to make mistakes faster than anyone else.” Daniel Ek, Founder, Spotify

These words of wisdom all ripple through our work practices and experiences – agile, lean, ToC, start-up and even Robert the Bruce! We have all learnt from our failures and iterated and adapted. As Skyscanner has grown, we have had to learn, and learn fast. What worked yesterday, is painful today and will be broken tomorrow.

However, though we all ‘fail’ daily, we find it hard to admit it. We find it even harder to understand ‘why’ we failed. In this session you’ll learn about how the Car Hire Team at Skyscanner:

got into difficulty (not on purpose).
how we knew we were in it (stop digging please).
and what we did to get out of it (root-cause exercise).
The presentation will cover how the Team designed, built, tested and released a 1st Iteration of a new feature (Downtown Map) in record time (14 days) using Critical Chain approach. However, it reduced conversion (C1) and led to much scratching of heads. This caused a throughput drop and our release pipeline started to clog up. At this point the Team stopped and asked themselves ‘why’ using Five Whys (a technique that everyone can try). You hear how this gave the Team clarity and they following the Theory of Constraints (ToC) approach to “Exploit” and “Subordinate” to the release pipeline by limiting WIP (work in progress) and reducing batch-sizes. A final ‘”Elevation” step resulted in the Team being split into two to bring sustainable focus and throughput. The lessons you will hear align with the Conference themes.

In the presentation there will be audience participation aimed at gauging how common it is for teams we all work in, to openly admit to failing, and whether this is seen as a positive. The aim of this presentation is to share with you practical experience which can be used in your work to help understand why we fail, to rapidly acknowledge when you are in difficulty, and to work as a team to get out of it.


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