Incidents are unplanned investments

We help you get the greatest return on them

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Adaptive Capacity Labs
You’re having incidents because you’re successful.
The good news: incidents are inevitable by-products of the complexity that comes with growing a successful business.
The bad news: these surprises are disruptive, painful and costly. You’re losing money and time dealing with them and the organization isn’t learning very much from them. The response to incidents is mostly localized and short-term “fixes”, and you are concerned that the organization doesn’t seem to be learning much from the incident experience. 

We bring research-driven methods and approaches to drive effective incident analysis in software-reliant organizations. 

We can help you:

  • understand what your incidents are trying to tell you, and
  • learn from these painful experiences.

Incidents are unplanned investments, and they are also opportunities. Your challenge is to maximize the ROI on the sunk cost. To do that, the organization has to invest in really exploring and understanding these events, and share that understanding broadly and over time.

What We Do

Assessment

We use research methods to assess: how well your organization learns from incidents, what your teams actually learn, and how that insight influences budgets, training, hiring, roadmaps, etc.

We deliver a full report of these findings that identifies opportunities and a clear set of recommendations.

Incident Analysis Training

This program bootstraps the development of effective incident analysis expertise in your company, taught and coached by pioneers of event reconstruction and software accident investigation.

Aftermath Projects

We perform independent Incident Analysis for events on short notice for organizations that have experienced high-profile events and are under intense pressure from stakeholders to produce a thorough analysis of the event in a paradoxically short period of time.

Who We Are

We bring research-driven methods and approaches to drive effective incident analysis in software-reliant organizations.

Our work goes beyond typical template-driven “postmortem” analyses.

We have over four decades of experience with incident analysis and organizational learning from events in complex systems. We’ve worked with organizations in tech, medicine, aerospace, finance, and manufacturing. We study decision making, problem detection and identification, and diagnosis and response coordination — all under “normal” conditions of increasing pressure, complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, and high consequences of failure.

The most valuable part of our work is when our clients learn how to direct this deep-level analysis themselves and build an internal community of incident analysts.

We’ve worked on incidents you know and ones you’ll never hear about. Just to be clear: people don’t call us up to discuss the weather and how well things are going. They call us because of trouble, sometimes scary trouble. 

We are experts in trouble.

Our Team

John Allspaw
John Allspaw has worked in software systems engineering and operations for over twenty years in many different environments. John’s publications include the books The Art of Capacity Planning (2009) and Web Operations (2010) as well as the forward to “The DevOps Handbook.”  His 2009 Velocity talk with Paul Hammond, “10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation” helped start the DevOps movement.
 
John served as CTO at Etsy, and holds an MSc in Human Factors and Systems Safety from Lund University.
Dr. Richard Cook

Dr. Richard Cook is a research scientist, physician, and pioneer in Resilience Engineering for safety in complex risk-critical worlds, and author of the seminal paper “How Complex Systems Fail” (video) as well as Behind Human Error (2010).

Richard is presently a research scientist in the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering at the Ohio State University and emeritus professor of healthcare systems safety at Sweden’s KTH. (publications)
Dr. David Woods

Dr. David Woods founded Resilience Engineering as an approach to safety in complex systems in 2000-2003 as part of the response to several NASA accidents.

David is currently professor at the Ohio State University in Dept. of Integrated Systems Engineering with pioneering research on the interaction between humans and technology in risk critical activities for almost 40 years. His books on safety and resilience engineering include Resilience Engineering: Concepts and Precepts (2006)Behind Human Error (2010), and Resilience Engineering in Practice (2011). (publications)

Our Work

Here are three examples of engagements we have done. Since we agree to terms of non-disclosure with all of our clients, names of clients and some specific details of the projects are withheld in these descriptions. 

Mid-size E-commerce Company

This client engaged us for an assessment of their organizational learning from incidents and to provide recommendations for improvement. They expressed concern about how insights were being shared and used to inform operational decisions across the engineering organization (in terms of roadmap changes, prioritization of existing work, etc.) More on this case→

Subdivision of SaaS Company

This client engaged us for an assessment of their organizational learning from incidents. They were confident about their current post-incident review practices, but expressed concern about how insights were being shared and used to inform operational decisions across the engineering organization (in terms of roadmap changes, prioritization, etc.) More on this case→

Financial Tech Company

This client reported having varied success with learning from incidents in the past and that challenges in responding to incidents could be helped by better post-incident analysis and debriefing facilitation. They suspected too much attention was given to localized “fixes” and not enough to how the teams coordinated and responded to incidents as they arise. More on this case→

Work With Us

We are currently accepting new projects for 2019. Please tell us more about your organization and how we can help.