Break Free of the Template: Incident Writeups They Want to Read

Date Wednesday, 26 October, 2022 - 11:00–11:40
Presenter Laura Nolan, Stanza


Most of us write incident reviews (IRs) or postmortems occasionally. Unfortunately, many IRs are never read by anyone other than those involved in the incident, and therefore have limited benefit to an organisation.

However, IRs that are well-crafted can create learning that will last in your organisation for years (and maybe even beyond). This talk will give practical advice on how to write the most engaging and valuable IR possible.


To the question of “Should you always do this?”, “Is it okay to use a template sometimes?”, Laura answers you should (probably) only do this for incidents which warrant it. The ones that are really gnarly or interesting to learn from.

Some incidents are just repeats or cut-and-dry events which aren’t worth that level of effort. It’s perfectly okay to use a shorter form/template for those and to quickly get them over with.

Other insightful comments from Laura (from Slack):

I do advocate for reserving this kind of intensive effort for the most interesting and impactful writeups. It absolutely does take time and energy. And that does pay more dividends in larger orgs where you have

  1. more adjacent teams who might benefit from the context
  2. more new joiners who need to get up to speed on systems and org

We all have to make choices about where the best payoff for our time is, and context matters, absolutely. (edited) 

I guess I see these kinds of writeups as a powerful form of organisational memory. I think most of us agree this has value, but then none of us have all the time we need to do all the things we want.