Learning Organizations

Big Red Car here. Still cool but tomorrow and the weekend will be back in the 70’s.

So The Boss was discussing how a company “learns” from its successes and failures with two of his brilliant CEOs. It was an interesting discussion. It was all about learning organizations.

If you’re having a tough day today, just look at this whitepaper on Post Mortem Reviews. Now you can go get on with your real work. You don’t need to read the rest of this blog post. Stay sharp!

The Post Mortem Review

Learning Organizations

Startups and small companies are organisms which “learn” by doing. They get smarter and they get more skillful but only if they do, in fact, learn. Failure to learn dooms the enterprise to repeating the same process without ensuring it is successful.

Nobody should be reluctant to admit that in the course of solving an unsolved problem or in the course of eliminating a pain point for the world — experiments will be conducted and success and failure will come by for a visit. It is, after all, a startup. Right?

The most important thing is to learn from both success and failure.

As Kipling said, the measure of a man is the ability to hang with Triumph and Disaster without being broken.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

An entrepreneur and a company must learn from both triumph and disaster.

How do you learn, Big Red Car?

The first thing is you have to keep a report card and be willing to give out tough grades when an experiment — a new marketing initiative, a bit of code, a new website — is finished. You have to grade your progress.

The startup up world and business is a graded exercise. Sometimes, it’s PASS/FAIL. That’s fine.

Make a commitment to grade yourself and your experiments.


When you are successful, you must catalog why, document it and make a commitment to repeat.

Repeat the means, methods, processes which have resulted in success. Identify the players who handled the ball. Let the “doers” bubble to the surface.

Communicate this information to your team so they can embrace these behaviors. You cannot over communicate.


When you fail, you must explore why, catalog it, document it and make a commitment to avoid doing just that in the future.

Avoid the drivers of failure.

Communicate this information to your team so they can avoid these behaviors. Again, you cannot over communicate.

Post mortem review

Many companies follow a formal post mortem review process. The Boss has helped companies design such a methodology.

Here is an outline — sixteen pages long — of how to conduct a post mortem review of a project. You don’t need to be quite as complete as this whitepaper suggests but you should at least review the questions raised by the survey at the end.

Read this. You will learn something valuable.

The Post Mortem Review

Print this out and use it in the future.

By conducting a formal post mortem review, both the entrepreneur (CEO) and the company ensures they learn what is learnable. The company becomes a learning organization.

If you need some assistance with conducting a post mortem review, contact The Boss at 512-656-1383 or jminch2011@gmail.com. He did this kind of stuff for over 33 years as a CEO.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be kind to someone who needs a bit of kindness and thereby be kind to yourself.





5 thoughts on “Learning Organizations

  1. You’re 2-2 this week.

    We are showing alpha product and getting a warm response from the market. We’ll use this to analyze and reinforce what is working with our product and positioning. It makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fantastic. This is Steve Blank’s concepts in a nutshell, presented really well. The timing is perfect, as well, as I was discussing this exact concept with a founding employee of a startup last night.

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