One of the biggest differences between continuous improvement or lean and other business models or systems is that it recognizes the need for reflection. Toyota recognizes that even if a task is completed successfully, there is a need to reflect on the results. It is a structured way to look at the results with the purpose of learning from the experience.
It takes time to get used to the idea of reflecting on our actions as part of our daily work. That is why reflection is part of the leaders’ standard work. It is challenging to do it because nobody wants to think about what went wrong or failures. The objective of this exercise is not to criticize the person or team, is to learn from mistakes to avoid future repetition. Through reflection, you can create better plans for the future.
Continuous improvement is about learning, experimenting, and using the lessons learned to change and adapt. We will find a million reasons not to take the time to reflect, but self-reflection or team reflection is the vehicle that will drive us full circle in our learning journey. It is not until we take the time to ask what went well and what didn’t that we learn through our honest answers. While learning from what we did well is good, learning from our mistakes is better. The answer to what you would do differently next time is where you will learn the most.
Continuous Improvement through Reflection
Reflection is one of the elements of the Kaizen spirit. The act or adapt step of the PDCA cycle is a reflection of what we intended to do. Did we accomplish the goal? Why not? How can we fix the problem? By getting into the habit of answering these questions, you keep yourself grounded to lean thinking.
Reflection is an important part of a learning organization. Learning from mistakes is what helps us to prevent repeating them, and the process of recognizing that even if something is good, can be better is what keeps the continuous improvement process alive and kicking!