How to do Hansei

By Jon Miller Published on May 4th, 2012

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I am wrapping up a fairly intensive period of reflection. This week was the first board meeting since the merger of Gemba Research and Kaizen Institute nearly 18 months ago. It has been a time of challenge, opportunity and personal growth, requiring much hansei. This was about half of our work this week, the other half looking ahead. As a result, the following are a few realizations on how to do hansei.
Don’t batch hansei. Reflection, learning and behavior correction is easier and better in small doses. The practices of hoshin kanri as well as the daily management / leader standard work build in regular reviews for the purpose of learning and course correction. Don’t wait 12-18 months for a review, no matter how major the project or how busy you may be.
Reflect as a team. It’s not easy to hold up the mirror steadily and gaze honestly at yourself. It is better to give and take feedback from multiple outside perspectives. While it’s not impossible to do hansei on one’s own, it’s immeasurably better to do so as a team.
Do hansei whenever you have an expectation. An expectation is a desire to see a particular output as a result of a process. We need to compare target (expectation) versus actual when doing hansei. Also, whenever we expected to see a result cannot, we also need to do hansei, and take action to correct the situation.
The reflection on the hansei process reminded me of a bit of eastern wisdom that goes “Know yourself, know what is good, know when to stop”. This is amazing advice in almost any situation. Applied to hansei,
Know yourself. This is the gist of hansei, an honest reflection on the self as an individual or the team as a unit.
Know what is good. Have a target to compare against and reflect upon. Hansei is less an exchange of opinions about a situation and more an honest look at the facts.
Know when to stop. The purpose of hansei is not to beat ourselves into a pulp or to express every dissatisfaction and every missed expectation. We must know when we have done sufficient reflection to identify a few actionable lessons. Stop while you are ahead and end reflection on a positive note if all possible.
There are fundamental cultural differences between countries, regions and departments within organization when it comes to facing up to faults and failures, accepting responsibility, and learning. The capacity to reflect may be what separate homo sapiens from animals, successful organizations from those less so. Kaizen, the PDCA cycle, hansei and the scientific method are all instances of the same principle. In general the more time we spend on Check and Act, the more effective our Plans and Doings will be. This is the spirit of hansei.

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