Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hansei and Paradigms

I enjoyed another interesting week as I introduced several new companies to the concepts of lean thinking. When I present these concepts, I like to begin by introducing paradigms. If time permits, I’ll introduce Joel Barkers film “The Business of Paradigms” … its such a powerful presentation. Paradigms are rules that we enforce upon ourselves that often block our ability to see alternative ways forward. I have caught myself doing this on many occasions – as recently as this past week!

I like to end these sessions by conducting a hansei. Hansei is a new concept to North Americans. Reflecting on events and giving group feedback to improve is uncomfortable and foreign. North Americans are more comfortable giving anonymous feedback using feedback forms and surveys. Inevitably, someone comments about the introduction of Japanese words, like hansei – “ why don’t you just say what you mean and use English words”. Jon Miller talks about that on his blog. Because this is such a foreign and uncomfortable concept, there is no simple English translation that does hansei justice. As uncomfortable as it is when started, the results of the hansei are powerful and immediate if acted upon. This single concept is perhaps the most fundamental and powerful in lean – reflecting and learning on what we did, saw, or heard. It is the Check in the PDCA cycle. I encourage my clients to adopt this concept at the end of every “formal” meeting. It can quickly transform the time together to become more effective and it teaches participants the art of reflection and providing feedback.

My presentations never contain a sales pitch (unless, of course, the presentation itself in its entirety is a sales pitch). Outside of one slide introducing who we are and what we do, I like to keep the content focussed on the subject matter. If participants need help with implementation, we can connect as a followup to the session. In one session, during the hansai, a participant commented that they liked the introduction to lean but got lost when I started talking about what I would do for the company as a consultant. The presentation included a segment on Hoshin Kanri – Strategy Deployment, and how this lean tool builds on the company values, mission and vision to become a powerful execution tool. Its interesting how narrow a view there is of lean. The concept of lean enterprise is in its infancy. Applying lean outside the shop floor (lean manufacturing), the office (lean office) or the design studio (lean product development) is not widely accepted. Using Hoshin Kanri, office Kaizen and a Lean Management System for leaders is still quite foreign. It goes beyond the current paradigm.

I’m now thinking about how I can adjust the presentation for better flow to transition from the basic fundamentals of lean thinking to more advanced concepts (like Hoshin Kanri and a Lean Daily Management System). Perhaps this is beyond a lean introduction. Perhaps I have not reflected enough on ways to make this improvement.

In either case, the hansei, reflection and continuous improvement is firmly engrained in my process.


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