Celebration Grid

My Best Diagram Ever: the Celebration Grid

At the Spark the Change conference in London, someone tweeted, “This one slide was worth the ticket price!” which was then retweeted more than 30 times. I got similar great comments from people in my workshops. And yes, I agree. My celebration grid might be the best model I ever created. It is based on the last book by Donald Reinertsen, but one picture can be more powerful than a thousand words.

To me, the model explains many things:

  • You learn most from running experiments, and only little from mistakes and good practices.
  • “Celebrate failure” is nonsense, because you shouldn’t celebrate failure that comes from mistakes (the red part).
  • What you should celebrate is learning, and repeating good practices (the green parts).
  • Pay-for-performance tends to drive people away from experiments, toward the safe practices on the right, with little learning as a result.
  • Hierarchies are good at exploiting opportunities, and endlessly repeating the same practices; but they learn very little.
  • Networks are good at exploring new opportunities, and failing half of the time, but they’re not good at efficiently repeating practices.
  • Training is teaching people about good practices. Mentoring is about growing and learning.
  • Don’t celebrate all successes, because they might be a result of mistakes. Celebrate good behaviors (experiments and good practices).

You can download the full celebration grid here. You can also find it in my new book, which is available for free. Several agile coaches have already told me the visualization is a GREAT tool for retrospectives.

What does the model explain for you?


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  • http://www.hr-od.com Bruce Pappas

    I like your ideas here. Good way to look at what we do.
    One question: shouldn’t “F” be: “What did you miss?” IMHO- luck has little to do with it.

    • jurgenappelo

      I don’t know. Missing something (for me) implies that you could have known, if you had a more careful look. But F. is about the Unknown.

  • Roberto Bera

    Nice grid.
    A little question about Good Pratices. The environment is changing; how you can aware that best pratices are still the best?

    • jurgenappelo

      I don’t understand the question. If the practices still work, you succeed. If they don’t work, you fail.

    • http://neverletdown.net Michael Keeling

      I think you have to think slightly meta in this case… for example, adapting to change IS a best practice. Ignoring change would be a mistake…

  • brny

    I’m not sure about difference between the failure in Mistakes and in Experiments. My understanding:
    Mistake = there is a good practice but you don’t use it (ignorance, laziness, shyness
    …) and you failed. Experiment = there is no good practice. That means you are
    looking for a new one (and everybody knows it’s an experiment) and you failed.
    Is it right?

    • jurgenappelo

      No, a mistake is not about a good practice. A mistake is something you know you should NOT be doing. Jumping off a high building would be a mistake. It’s not a good practice.
      Experiments are about finding out what the good practices are by trying something, because you don’t know.

      • brny

        Jurgen, thank you for you answer! Experiments are clear now 🙂
        To Mistakes: Does it mean that you KNOW you are doing something wrong? You are making the mistake ON PURPOSE?

        • jurgenappelo

          When I make a spelling error in my book it is a mistake. But I don’t make spelling errors on purpose.

  • Kirk Apolo

    Very interesting diagram, and threw me into deep thinking.
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