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Hansei

Hansei is a Japanese term that loosely translates to self-reflection. In practice, though, it is much more than that. Hansei requires several things.

  1. A person must recognize that there is a problem in personal performance. Hansei is not a run-of-the-mill assessment tool. It looks at personal failings rather than system or process problems.
  2. The person must take responsibility for the shortcoming. Being called on the carpet is not the same as hansei. Owning the mistake is a critical part of this form of reflection.
  3. There must be a sense of wrong associated with the self-reflection. ‘Oh, well’ attitudes about a failing don’t inspire the deep thinking that an emotional attachment to the problem does.
  4. The individual must commit to improvement. This is more than just saying they want to get better. There must be a solidly defined action plan associated with hansei.

This concept of self-reflection tends to be muted in American culture. That’s not to say that Americans don’t commit to getting better. It’s just that there is less of a sense of shame at the failing and less of a feeling of obligation about making things right.

The closest example to hansei in the US is probably the after action review (AAR) that the military does after training exercises. There is a public discussion in which people address what they personally did right and wrong. There is also a high sense of duty in the military and a feeling of letting down your comrades when you don’t perform up to expectations.

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