Hansei as a necessary step in pdca

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”- Margaret Wheatley

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We all know that reflecting on what you have done and what has happened in a project is important. In Lean there is a habit that is about constant reflection in order to keep finding new ways to improve: Hansei. "Han" means to change or turn over. "Sei" means to look back, review or examine oneself.

You reflect during and after projects and activities and you reflect on successful and less successful projects. You always keep striving for perfection. This means you can also do hansei daily both individually and as a team. You help each other to keep growing.

Basic outlook

In hansei you focus on the processes, collaboration (team, supplier and customer) and outcomes in order to improve. There is a certain humility involved in this concept. No project is ever so successful that there was nothing that could be improved. Looking for things that went wrong can be difficult in certain cultures. Not all cultures take negative feedback well. Especially when the goals of the project have been met. This means it is important to stress that it does not (always) mean that the project or you personally have failed, but that we are never so perfect that we cannot improve for our next project or activity. A certain openness and safety is needed. It also needs to be clear that no problem is very much a problem (people are not perfect). The idea is that once hansei is a recurring habit it can be done in a short timeframe each time you do it. 
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Some practical tips

  • Look at what went especially well (preferably things you have improved since the last hansei).
  • Copy key succesfactors to new projects.
  • Make sure everyone knows the purpose of hansei.
  • Look at what went wrong or could have gone better.
  • Develop countermeasures for these points of improvement and take them with you to the next project.
  • Keep focus on the central idea: not to hurt individuals or projects by making them feel bad, but to learn and keep improving. This means that nothing is off limits. 
  • Make notes and follow up on the countermeasures and successfactors.
  • Look at both individuals and teams, look at processes and collaboration. Everything is interconnected. 
  • Make sure people come prepared.
  • Keep the meeting short. It is not about an exhaustive list, but about actionable outcomes to keep improving. 
  • Make reflection a recurring habit not just at the end of projects but also during. You can also make it a habit at an individual level.
  • Always start with what you yourself could have done better. Do not start with what others could have done better. 

The importance of emotion

Emotion is an important part of hansei. It serves as a way to identify areas for improvement. It also motivates people to do better next time. Humility is an important part of recognizing that even with great success there are always opportunities to improve. Unease or even shame about impeding progress even when the project is successful is also a great motivator. So do not why away from emotion and give it it's place in Hansei. How to do this will vary in each culture. 
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