25. May. 2016

The art of reflection

by Peet Wiid

The connection between critical reflection and standard work

The art of reflection is nowadays seldom practised in businesses or in personal life. Reflection (or hansei as referred to in Lean) is such a useful technique to improve the way we function, that it should become part of our efficiency habits.

Reflection is more than just thinking – it is about critical thinking (not to be confused with criticising). It is a deeper thought-process whereby we analyse where things have gone wrong, or where we have hit the target. We then need to understand why these results were produced, e.g.

·        What is the root cause of the below-par productivity and how can we learn from it?

·        What is laying beneath the symptom of receiving late financial statements the last few months?

·        Why did I not complete all my work last week?

·        How did we deliver this large order in full and on time according to customer requirements?

The subsequent question is: what do we reflect against? We require a target condition to determine whether our performance is “up to standard” or not. These standards are created through critical thinking and careful planning with the purpose of minimising the waste (inefficiencies) we have observed, anticipated, and experienced. Quality reflection can be done once a standard has been created and applied. If a standard has not been clearly defined, first do so, and then constantly reflect current practise against it.

But, not only do we need to check if we are following a standard, we must also find ways to make it better to improve performance (whether at work, in sport and recreation, in my family life, my cultural activities, or my personal values).

Hansei formally prompts us to critically reflect on my, and our, performance against the current standard, and to find more efficient ways to perform, and then to document it as the new standard way of behaving. A higher quality standard will support quick, quality reflection.

Ponder on this:

·        Include critical reflection as a task on your standard work sheet,

·        Then continuously reflect critically on your standard work,

·        Include your work and personal life in your reflection time – you are a holistic being,

·        Hansei requires discipline and the forming of new habits – include cross-checking on everyone’s standard work sheets to support the forming of these new habits.

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