The Five Dirty Words of CI

“Blameless postmortems” and “learning from failure” are very en vogue in the technology industry right now. Both fall into that less-discussed category of “CI”: Continuous Improvement. But for as much as we all talk about them, in many organizations and teams, the outcome of continual organizational learning and improvement remains elusive. Why is this?

In this talk, we’ll look at five “dirty words”* that are often thrown around during postmortems, retrospectives, and other learning exercises that not only make it difficult for teams to discuss learning, but promote activities and behaviors that are actually counterproductive to continuous improvement. We’ll dig into the existing research on why this is–it turns out we’re not the only industry struggling with this!–and look at some different language we can start using that can more ably facilitate sustainable Continuous Improvement in our work environments.

*Not actually dirty words.



J. Paul Reed


J. Paul Reed started his career in technology over fifteen years ago in the trenches as a build/release and tools engineer, working with such storied organizations as VMware, Mozilla, Postbox, and Symantec.

In 2012, he founded Release Engineering Approaches, a consultancy incorporating a host of tools and techniques to help organizations “Simply Ship. Every time.” His approaches work because they take into account not only the technology issues at hand, but the organizational dynamics that affect the teams who implement and operate that technology.

Since its founding, Paul has had the opportunity to work across a number of industries, from financial services and healthcare to cloud-based infrastructure startups and the federal government. He’s helped teams from 2 to 200 on every aspect of the software delivery process, including tooling, continuous delivery pipelines, operational analysis and improvement, team culture transformation, and business value optimization.

Paul is an internationally recognized speaker on DevOps, release engineering, and operations complexity. He’s written articles for O’Reilly, DZone, and Atlassian and is the author of DevOps in Practice.

He is also the founding host of The Ship Show, a twice-monthly podcast tackling topics related to build engineering, DevOps, and release management.