Here at Cognician we develop various digital coaching programs for our partners. Key to our approach is using the Socratic method. In a previous blog, I wrote about how this method uses thought-provoking questions to create ‘Eureka’ moments. It’s these moments that lead to shifts in attitudes, in behavior, and in mindsets.
But what about the thought that those questions are intended to provoke?
John Dewey, the American philosopher and psychologist, said “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
To develop, we need to build on our experience. Whether it’s to improve our skills and abilities, become more competent, increase our performance or open ourselves to new ideas. But as Dewey observed, we do this through reflection, either on our own or with others.
Many of the digital coaching programs we develop are for soft skills, such as leadership, motivation, communication, and even coaching itself. They provide users with the opportunity to reflect on how they practice these skills and how to improve them.
For the past four years, I’ve helped to develop digital coaching programs for implementing lean practices in factories and across supply chains. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that self-reflection is as relevant to lean practices. In fact, it’s an integral and essential part of it.
Lean manufacturing is a methodology and philosophy that’s built on the Toyota Production System. It uses lots of Japanese terms for making a factory more productive and efficient, such as kaizen, kaikaku, kanban, jidoka, and yokoten.
Lean also uses lots of techniques for continuous improvement. Tools and techniques for identifying and solving problems, for example.
But one key Lean concept stands out for me. It’s called ‘Hansei’ (反省) and it’s best translated into English as ‘self-reflection’. Hansei is a core concept of Japanese culture, and means to acknowledge your own mistakes and pledge improvement. It’s not about shame or guilt. Rather, it’s about admitting there is room for improvement – and committing to that improvement.
And that, in essence, is what continuous improvement is all about. Whether it’s in a factory, a warehouse, a training workshop or your office.
So what does Hansei involve?
At each key milestone in a project, and at completion, the people involved meet to reflect on their experience of what happened. However, successes aren’t celebrated. In true Japanese fashion, they are treated with humility and modesty. Instead, the focus is on the failures and what could have been better.
This isn’t about pointing fingers, issuing blame or scoring points. It helps to identify when things need to improve and prevent any of the errors that were made. Above all, it helps to instill the belief that there’s always room and always need for further improvement.
This belief is essential for continuous improvement in a factory and implementing and sustaining the various Lean practices. But it’s just as valid for continuous improvement in our own lives – whether it’s to develop our skills, improve our performance or just to grow as people.
Why not take this opportunity to practice some self-reflection? In what areas do you need to improve? How can you take ownership of that need to improve? What can you do and when will you start doing it?
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