How to use lean to learn from mistakes

Learning from mistakes is key to continuous improvement. Lean is more than just process improvement. Lean requires you to think differently, to challenge the status quo, to look at products, services and process from the end-user perspective. Individuals who think Lean, continuously strive to make improvements.

To explore and learn from mistakes, one tool Lean uses is an After Action Review (AAR). If you are involved in a project or program that involves multiple people, then you will want to understand each person’s perception, because each person will emphasize different aspects of the situation based on their skills, biases, and circumstances.

Using an After Action Review

An After Action Review,  asks the people who are involved, four simple questions:

1. What did you expect to occur?
2. What actually occurred?
3. What went well, and why?
4. What can be improved, and how?

The answers to these questions will get you closer to a complete view of what took place, provide ideas to avoid similar mistakes in the future, and identify ways to improve. Remember, progress won’t be a straight line but if you keep learning you will have more successes than failures, and the mistakes you make along the way may even improve the final outcomes.

5 steps to learn from mistakes

  1. Accept responsibility (own a task, project), be empowered (take initiative to get things done), and be accountable (accept the consequences – good and bad)
  2. You can’t change past mistakes, but you can choose how you respond
  3. Growth and learning occur when you learn from mistakes and identify ways to improve
  4. Understand how your behaviour and attitude influenced the outcome
  5. Don’t overcompensate (e.g. don’t put in extra approvals and process steps as a means of protecting yourself from future possible penalties)

In a few short years, Kathleen has become an inspiration for change as the Lean Leader for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (the Department). Known for her constant drive, Kathleen earned her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt from BMGI, while designing strategy, systems, processes and guidelines related to Lean that directly impact the Department’s on-going operations.

Kathleen brings a unique set of skills and experience to State government which she is using to help the Department make truly transformative changes in the way it operates. She has developed and facilitates trainings for the successful adoption of innovative thinking through the use of Lean tools and methods.

Prior to working for the Department, Kathleen worked across industries as a District Manager, Branch Manager and Account Supervisor, where she provided strategic consulting services and cultivated relationships with a wide-variety of industry leaders.

Kathleen possesses a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Grand View University, and continues to develop her skills through applied training in a variety of courses such as Innovation Tools and Techniques, Driving Organizational Efficiency and Effectiveness through Control and Performance Evaluation, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations and Keeping Others Accountable.