Psychological safety


Looking at the triangle of Lencioni1 , trust is the basis for creating high-performance teams. To enable trust within a team, you need psychological safety. The importance of psychological safety is also stressed by research from a large two-year study at Google2. In Building Block Personal, interpersonal and team skills we state: “When keeping psychological safety in mind you could say; if there is no status loss or fear of negative consequences for stepping up and stating you did something wrong, the emphasis remains on fixing, learning and growth; not on possible punishment, because even failing to learn is a failure that can then be discussed in those terms and acted upon later”. Increasing psychological safety can be done on team level and on organization level. In this section we will look at the organizing aspect of increasing psychological safety. 

Safe to fail environment

Psychological safety can grow when there is a safe to fail environment. To create a safe to fail environment several aspects can be taken into account. From a Quality Engineering perspective, the following are of interest. The use of metrics, the handling of anomalies and the way retrospectives are performed.


When looking at metrics in relation to psychological safety it is important to focus at trends and learning opportunities. Use mainly metrics on team performance instead of individual performance. This will reduce the forming of a blaming culture. This blaming culture will lead to people trying to hide mistakes and shift them on to other people. Also, when interpreting metrics, the focus should be on the learning aspect of the derived insights.

Handling anomalies

When handling anomalies in order to encourage psychological safety remain objective and use neutral language. Focus on the solution and openly discuss with the team which measures can be taken to avoid this to become a reoccurring anomaly. What can be done by the team or in the process to improve in the future


Part of becoming a high performing team is learning and continual improving. One of the tools available for teams to reflect, inspect and adapt is a retrospective session. From organizational perspective encouraging the effectiveness of retrospectives can be done by conducting lessons learned sessions with multiple teams. In these sessions, teams share the faults they made as a team and the lessons they learned from it. In this way it is openly showed that it is all right to make mistakes as long as you learn from it.


  1. Lencioni 2002, The five dysfunctions of a team