Reflection Captures The Lessons Experience Teaches


Reflection Captures the Lessons Experience Teaches

Albert Einstein said “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”

Organizations that embrace the learning from experience have the competitive advantage of efficient improvement. Great organizations use experiments and the scientific methods are their ways to identify and unlock the true value in their organization. But even in these great organizations the lessons generated by the experience can be lost without solid reflection.

Reflection is necessary to capture all of the lessons from any experience- good or bad. There are two proven strategies for effective reflection: refer back to the plan and make it a group experience.

Refer back to the plan

The lean community has long embraced the idea of PDCA; Plan, Do, Check, and Act. While it is not always done well, it is recognized as an effective improvement process. The PDCA process is actually a short form of the scientific method with the Plan being the start of a hypothesis. The Plan states that IF we do this, execute the plan, THEN we can expect this. “The Do” is running the experiment, and “the Check” is the refection.

Too often, however, the reflection excitedly jumps to the obvious conclusion rather than ask-why did what we expect happen or not?

A real example is a metal extrusion company that was bottlenecked in packaging. They made a plan to have one of the schedulers go out and make a list of all of the metal that needed packed, to sort it on paper by packing type and dedicate packing lanes to finish it. The scheduler went out with good intent but came back in an hour and said “There is too much. I can’t get it all.” The plan didn’t work.

But why? … What were the Plans assumptions?

Upon reflection, the group found that there were several categories of metal that did not need packed- Metal that had been rejected and needed dispositioned. Racks of metal that were left over from finished packs and needed to be scrapped as overages or assigned to other orders.

The learning organization reflects on the learning from the experiment by asking what was expected and understanding what was wrong about the expectation. Instantly, a new experiment to clear out the redundant metal leads them on a path to improvement.

Reflection is a group exercise

Great organizations and struggling organizations often both have some sort of performance board posted in a department or work area. It usually captures key metrics from the past 24 hours, or a week, or a month. The metrics usually measure the Safety, Quality, Delivery, and Cost. The difference between the Great and the Struggling organizations is how or if they reflect on the data, the metrics provide.

A great sensei used to say “We are not just putting boards on the floor, we are trying to create a group improvement environment where everyone can see the performance as a group and reflect on how to improve.” That is why we encourage large dry erase boards rather than 8.5 x 11 inch reports. And why the location of the information, preferably on the shop floor, is so important.

Reflection is a group activity. No one person can be perfect, but a team has a chance.
Encourage your team have effective reflection that leads to effective improvement by returning to the plan and working together.

By the way, what is your reflection for the day? Might be interesting to see what you can learn.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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