Empowering Lean Solutions for Everyone


Hansei is simply a Japanese concept or idea, which is basically intentional reflection to improve. The word hansei is actually two words the first Han which means, change, turn something over, and to review and reflect upon; and the second Sei which means to look back upon, to review, and to examine oneself. Placed together they come to mean introspection and/or reflection to improve oneself. You see in Japanese society they look to avoid embarrassment so they constantly look to improve themselves, this means that whether you succeed or fail you stop to reflect upon what could have been done better.

Hansei Kai is a meeting held after every problem or project (regardless of the level of success) to analyze and review what problems occurred, the reason for the problem occurring, and what changes can be made to prevent it from ever recurring. It may seem strange to us that you would look over problems that occurred during a successful project, but the truth is there were problems. Those problems may have been overcome, yet the only way everyone will learn from them, and they can be prevented or limited in the future is to, stop and discuss them, and to come up with actions to deal with them now while they are still fresh in everyone’s mind. At Toyota there is a common saying which translates to “no problems is a problem,” which is basically being honest, there are always problems.

When you come to admit that regardless of the level of success, there will be problems, and that those problems are first and foremost an opportunity to improve the organization and yourself, ignoring them becomes far worse than dealing with them. It is common in hansei kai meetings that everyone gets chastised for the problems by the manager. After that everyone is asked to identify the causes of the problems, and suggest counter measures to avoid them in the future. It is also common in these meetings that those who were directly responsible for the problem apologize to their team and company. Yet, when the manager reports it to his superiors he assumes all responsibility for what went wrong and does not blame any individual, he also apologizes for his failure to the company in doing so. It is through these reflective meetings that these companies keep their focus on getting better, while constantly identify what problems occurred and sharing what they have done to prevent them they help their organization to avoid repeating the same errors in the future. Their system accepts that anyone can make a mistake, but the only way that mistake will not be repeated again by talking about it and developing counter measures to avoid it.

In reality if you did not actually experience any type of problem the project you were working on it did not push you hard enough to improve. Improvement only comes as the result of overcoming a current problem. If you managed to gain an improvement without having solved a problem, either you were performing poorly beforehand for no valid reason, or the new improved state may not be sustainable and may have only been the result of temporary blind luck.

Likewise we can and should do it ourselves, whether something went well or not, we can learn from the issues that came up and we have already dealt with. If we fail to do hansei we will repeat the same error over and over again. Also, when we share what we have learned with others in our organizations we help them avoid the same errors we have made and we can also help them deal better with the same problems we have faced. You, through sharing information we can help someone else deal with a similar problem successfully in the future by following what has worked for us, so we reduce that chance that a similar problem will cause a future error for someone else in the organization.

Because hansei causes us to constantly improve it relates both to Jidoka, because it helps build quality into our products, and it also supports Kaizen as it helps continuous improvement. Assuming responsibility for problems and by treating the problems not as something to be held guilty for, but as simply something that needed to be dealt with we help increase the level of respect within the organization. As respect increases so does the level of cooperation and collaboration within the organization. And as respect grows inside an organization it also starts to reflect upon outside relationships, which helps build loyalty, something that both improves your supply position and your marketing position.