Escape the Mud

Analyzing Our Wins

May 07, 2024

Analyzing Our Wins Like We Do Failures

Software engineers have a knack for fixing things—it’s almost second nature to us. However, there’s an equally important, yet often overlooked, aspect of our workflow that deserves attention: analyzing our successes with the same rigor we apply to our failures.

The Overlooked Value of Success

In the world of software engineering, when things go awry, they typically command immediate attention. Teams mobilize to conduct retrospectives and post-mortems, dissecting every detail to understand what went wrong and how to prevent similar issues in the future. This process is critical, no doubt. However, from my experiences across various companies, I’ve noticed a common oversight: successes are frequently acknowledged with just a quick nod—a brief moment of recognition—before the conversation pivots to areas of improvement.

I propose a shift in perspective: What if we also “double down” on dissecting our successes? For instance, consider a common positive outcome in retrospectives: meeting our sprint commitments. Instead of merely celebrating this achievement, we should delve deeper, much like we would in a root cause analysis. Why were we able to meet our commitments? Perhaps it was because the tasks were accurately estimated and manageable, but why was that the case? Maybe it’s because a particular developer excelled in crafting a clear, comprehensive user story. What made that user story so effective? This line of questioning can lead us to concrete examples of best practices that can be replicated and taught across the team.

Or take another scenario: a feature launch that went off without a hitch. Instead of just patting ourselves on the back for a “bug-free” release, we should investigate the underlying factors that led to this success. Was it the thoroughness of our testing, or perhaps the effectiveness of our communication during the development process?

Learning From Success

Embracing this method can significantly boost productivity by reinforcing what works well. As someone who loves basketball, let me offer an analogy to illustrate this point: When Steph Curry entered the NBA, he wasn’t known for his defensive skills, but his extraordinary shooting ability was undeniable. The Golden State Warriors capitalized on this strength, focusing on enhancing their shooting capabilities rather than transforming into a defensive juggernaut. This strategic emphasis on their strengths revolutionized basketball.


To be clear, I am not suggesting we ignore our failures—those lessons are invaluable. However, achieving a balance where successes are scrutinized and celebrated with the same intensity as failures could propel our teams to new heights. By fostering an environment where every success is a learning opportunity, we not only improve but also motivate and inspire our teams to continually strive for excellence.

Escape the Mud is a developer centric blog that covers a wide array of topics. Written by Dennis Marchand