The power of reflection

Reflect. Learn. Apply. Repeat.

Reflect. Learn. Apply. Repeat.

Take just a few minutes to look back to reflect on your learning before always moving forward. You will gain insight while becoming more effective and efficient.

The pace goes ever faster. More. Bigger. Grow. Those are the words we all hear daily.

As the great Satchel Paige once said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” But I disagree. We must incorporate what I call the Power of Reflection in the spirit of continuous improvement.

Look back, to move forward with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Everything in life offers a learning opportunity. History frequently repeats itself. We do similar or even identical tasks again and again. But do we make time to truly learn from each completed activity, and what's the best way to efficiently and effectively gain wisdom from our experiences?

I recommend that you implement The Reflection process at the conclusion of every major activity. This is the core of the spirit of continuous improvement.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it." — Edmund Burke

Our work world is always hurry, hurry, hurry - jumping from one task right into the next one. We multitask and juggle lots of balls, all of the time. But if you're always “doing," when and how do you make time to pause, reflect and learn about what you just accomplished? How can we do better next time, and how can this learning be applied to other initiatives?

The Power of Reflection is really quite simple and only takes five minutes. And once again, I attribute this construct to one of my mentors, Barnett Helzberg, who shares his three magic questions as a simple, yet profound, way to learn reflectively. His magic questions are:

  1. What was great?
  2. What could have improved?
  3. What was missing?

In practical terms, gather the core team responsible for developing and implementing the just-completed project. Simply ask these three questions and elicit candid answers to each. Capture the comments as verbatim. Specificity matters. W. Edwards Deming, recognized as the father of the “quality” movement, teaches us that we can always do “ever better,” there’s always an opportunity for improvement. Be specific and exact, and strive for a 10 percent improvement next time.

I’ve learned that often the hardest question is “what was missing?" or "what else could / should we have done?" Again, be honest and candid; I've learned there's something to add almost every time.

Special Note: This process also works for your personal time. Think about your last vacation, and ask these three questions before planning your next one. How about your last dinner party? Or date night with your sweetie? I've thanked Barnett countless times for this brilliant construct, and when done correctly, you can incorporate The Power of Reflection as a standard practice for both quality and efficiency improvement.

My mom taught me to be a lifelong learner. Barnett’s three magic questions ensure you'll always be learning.

Reflect. Learn. Apply. Repeat.