Making Sense of Incidents in the Modern Era

“In what ways and to what purpose are the artifacts produced in a post-incident review process utilized in practice by software development and operations companies?”

This simple question (with a seemingly obvious answer) served as the launching point for months of research on what artifacts our industry produces when we hold incident postmortems and retrospectives, the various elements of those artifacts, and a weeks-long deep-dive into how three different teams within one organization actually use those artifacts to facilitate organizational learning, “learning from failure,” and improved incident response.

This talk contains the answer to that question; in it, we’ll cover:

  • Findings from a review of various incident postmortem/retrospective artifacts, solicited from across the software development and operations industry.
  • A deep-dive into how various teams in one organization uses their artifacts and to what ends.
  • Other fascinating highlights from research conducted, highlighting how actually do retrospectives and document the outcomes, not just how they say they’re doing it.
  • Finally, highlights from this organization’s usage which can help your organization further embrace learning from failure and improving incident response.


J. Paul Reed


J. Paul Reed has over fifteen years experience in the trenches as a build/release engineer, working with such storied companies as VMware, Mozilla, Postbox, Symantec, and Salesforce.

In 2012, he