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Repent, I mean Hansei!

By Ron Updated on February 1st, 2021

I never seem to stop learning from my friend Jon Miller.  I wanted to write a post about hansei and thus decided to dig around to see what other bloggers had to say on the topic. I typed hansei into Google and mid way through the first results page I saw a link to Jon’s blog on this very topic – imagine that!


After reading Jon’s post I was enlightened to say the least.  I have always used the term hansei in the same way I might use the word reflection. It seems this may not be the best translation of the term after all.

You see hansei should always be used in the spirit of what went wrong even though in some cases we think everything went great.   Jon writes:

“Where people in the U.S. or Europe might celebrate the completion of a project with an office party, and maybe PowerPointing some lessons learned, the Japanese would have a somber hansei-kai and then drown their hansei sorrows in drink.”

There seems to be a fine line here as you can reflect and come to the same thing as described above. But you can also reflect and say, “hmm… fancy that happening, eh?” This type of reflection is not what hansei is about.


Jon goes on to explain a better English word for hansei may actually be repent. You know, like repent and believe all ye wasteful sinners!

I must admit there are aspects of the Japanese culture that depress me a bit. I may be way off but it often seems they are never satisfied, never happy, never content. Perhaps this is the true secret to Toyota’s success.

After all, many companies are “doing lean” but few get the results Toyota does. Why is that? Perhaps hansei is in order… the real hansei that is.  You can read Jon’s entire hansei post here.

  1. Jeremy Garner

    August 30, 2010 - 7:49 am

    You know Jon, it is true. The Japanese never seem to be as excited about the success or progress that we Americans are so eager to break open the champagne over. This is a significant difference in culture. Sometimes we Americans view this as not being appreciated for diligent work as to where the Japanese may view our celebration as a lack of focus toward continuous improvement. I think when we understand this difference on both sides we can better avoid frustration. What do you think?

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