Simplistic is so simple it is not enough
Simple is everything you need and nothing more.
Spencer Johnson, Author of Who Moved My Cheese
There are three simple questions you can use to improve, absolutely everything! Ask these questions at the conclusion of every major implementation, project, event, training – you name it. In addition, the learning gained will transfer to other situations. You will begin to develop your own best practices. Here they are:
- What worked well?
- What did not work well?
- What should be done differently next time?
Simple? Then why isn’t it consistently practiced? Why don’t we take the time to reflect and learn? In my 30-year career, I rarely see project teams take time to thoroughly reflect and record their learning in order to improve the outcomes of future projects. People will share their frustrations during a project as well as their dissatisfaction with the outcome, but they don’t take the time to gather all this feedback and learn from it. Instead, we make the same assumptions and mistakes the next time and feel like we are a character in the movie Ground Hog day.
This inquiry process is called reflective practice. A colleague and I engaged faculty in a discussion on using reflective practice to improve their teaching. Many said they did reflect often, but did not take the time to record their learning and make it a standard practice.
For this inquiry process to have impact, it needs to become a habit and part of what you do, every time. You will continuously get better at what and how you do “it”. When a work group continuously uses reflective practice and their ideas are implemented, it inspires everyone’s best thinking.
I consistently use reflective practice each June with my staff to debrief our portion of the catalog production process. Each November when we begin planning for the next catalog, we review the list of ideas from the “What we should do differently, next time?” and integrate them into our planning. It has saved time, reduced errors and improved communication and coordination with other departments.
The keys are devoting ample time and using each question for each critical area of focus. For instance, we ask “What worked well with the training that we conducted?” Include follow up questions, Did the time work? Did the format work? What about the handouts? The debriefing requires participants to stay focused on one aspect at a time. By the time you get to the “What should we do differently, next time?” question, creative ideas start flowing.
If you have never done this, I challenge you to pick a current project, event, or next meeting. Yes, you can even improve meetings! Make the time to do it.
Use this Improvement Guide to record your findings and help with future planning:
Do you ask any other questions to help make improvements?
Inquiring minds want to know.