Hansei: Recognise Mistakes and Avoid Reoccurrence

5 Min Read
Hansei: Recognise Mistakes and Avoid Reoccurrence

Hansei is a Japanese word that means reflection. However, the true meaning is more introspection. Basically, it’s a process of recognising and reflecting on mistakes and taking the appropriate action to ensure the errors don’t happen again.

Its roots are in Eastern philosophy and religion and, therefore, an essential part of Japanese culture. School children learn how to perform it from a very early age, and it plays a key role in learning and improving with self-critical reflection.

This process has also found a place in the world of business. In large companies, such as Toyota and their Toyota Lean Manufacturing and TPS, it is used to review projects or activities, and it’s done if the project was considered a success or a failure. It can also form part of employee assessments or end-of-year reviews. The important thing is for it to be done regularly, regardless of an event’s perceived outcome.

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What is Hansei Concept and Meaning?

Hansei (反省 ) is a Japanese word for “self-reflection” focusing on acknowledging and recognising one’s mistakes and taking appropriate action to avoid re-occurrence and promising to improve.

Hansei Meaning is made up of two words “Han” meaning to change, turn over, or turn upside down. Then the second part “Sei” means to look back, review, and examine oneself.

The wisdom behind the Japanese concept of Hansei and continuous improvement is about acknowledging mistakes and modesty pledging improvement. Looking back and contemplating how a process can be improved.

Identifying flaws and weaknesses and being honest about them, it can be one of the most powerful concepts within your business. But also the most difficult because critical self-analysis is always difficult for anyone as we hate to see our weaknesses. Criticism can be a tough pill to swallow and can be uncomfortable in the Western World.

Japanese Approach: ” I should have done this better as I made a mistake. I will do better next time. I will take forward what I have learnt”

Western Approach:  “I did a wonderful job so I should be praised and rewarded. I could not do it any better”

In Japan and especially in Toyota they spend little time celebrating success. But instead always keen to spend time overcoming and accepting weakness.

Things you should be asking yourself moving forward. What went well and what have I learnt that will be useful?  What should I do differently and avoid in the future? Solution for improvement can not be found unless we acknowledge that the problem exists in the first place.

Hansei Lean and Kaizen

Lean Methodology process is always based on continuous improvement.

Hansei brings the practice of looking back and reflecting on how a process can be improved. 

Even if you feel you complete a task, process or project successfully, you should hold a hansei-kai (reflection meeting) to review what went wrong that you might not have noticed. Because “no problem is a problem” in other words, you haven’t looked closely and critically evaluated the process enough to find opportunities for improvement.

Hansei is one of the first key steps to kaizen, as the concept focuses on improvement over punishment. Kaizen is about improving individuals because if we improve ourselves we can then contribute and help improve business.

Understanding why we fail and accepting we have done something wrong is important. We can then draw on this knowledge and learn valuable lessons, and discover methods and ways to prevent its happening again.

Hansei technique can lead to a continuous improvement mindset within a business.

How to Get The Most Out of the Hansei Process

You have to follow no standard procedure, but you do have to include the following elements. You can do it on your own or use it within a team or group setting.

The steps start with problem recognition:

Problem Recognition: It all starts with the identification of problems or mistakes that you can then reflect upon. However, it is more the identification of personal failures, rather than process or systemic issues.

For many people, identifying weaknesses within themselves is very difficult. It’s a case of conditioning the mind and being honest with yourself. The first step is realising there is a problem.

Responsibility: The next critical step is to take responsibility for your personal failures and accept accountability for unwanted outcomes. Taking responsibility for your actions allows you to be more perceptive and accept your weaknesses.

Justification of your actions means you are in a “Denial” mode and are closed down to self-improvement.

Emotional Attachment to Failure: If you’re unable to accept responsibility, you’ll continuously use excuses to justify your actions. Always trying to justify failures by continuously blaming others and in “I’m a Victim” mode rather than improvement mode.

In a team setting, everyone needs to recognise the part they’ve played in a project’s outcome. A good or bad outcome is not the fault or responsibility of one team member, but the whole team.

Commit to Improvement Plan: The first two elements are worthless if you’re not prepared to commit towards self-improvement. With a concrete plan of action in place, you can prevent the same things from happening again.

Breaking down tasks into small bite-sized pieces, by creating a daily to-do list or a checklist to help monitor progress and know you are heading in the correct direction. Also, consider using a PDCA / Deming Cycle (Plan–Do–Check–Act or Adjust). 

When working as part of a team, requires the team to brainstorm solutions. Write down the solutions and review them together. It’s vital that everyone agrees to the solutions and commits to their implementation.

In the hansei process, the key emphasis is what went wrong and creating a clear plan for guaranteeing that it does not reoccur again. This is a continuous improvement process that is consistently done with every process or project.

Methodology For Business Improvement and Evolution

Hansei is a proven business improvement technique. Implement it in your business, and it will improve the self-esteem and conviction of your employees. 

Introduce regulate reflection meetings at critical stages of any project as well as at the end to identify problems. To address problems and ensure continuous improvement, you should encourage your employees to ask the following questions:

  • What can we do in the future to avoid this problem happening again?
  • How do we stop this happening again?
  • How do we prevent a re-occurrence of this problem?

Questions such as these should encourage constructive discussion, responses, and plans of action.

The purpose of these meetings will be to identify issues, develop remedies, and discuss the lessons learned with all team members. If this happens, mistakes will not be repeated.

To initiate the process in a business, you must learn to graciously accept failure and instil courage in others to take ownership of their own failures, be able to reflect, and move on.

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