I’m a firm believer that no experience is a ‘bad experience’, instead each one presents an opportunity to learn, grow and for self-improvement. Often when we complete a successful project, there are a few high-fives before everyone hurries on to the next project and the sweet success becomes a distant memory. When we encounter a challenging or a failed project, there is the tendency to sweep things under the carpet quickly and move on, not having resolved or talked it through. To really benefit and develop ourselves, in addition to just going through the experience, we must take some time out and reflect on it.
A powerful technique I encourage others to use is ‘Win, Learn, Change’ (WLC) as follows:
- Win – What worked well on this project? What really helped make a positive impact and get the desired result? What did you enjoy most?
- Learn – What didn’t go so well? What did you learn or discover on this project which stopped you from quite hitting the mark? This could be in the form of key issues or difficulties faced, or perhaps something you found out about yourself in that situation?
- Change – What would you do differently next time or going forward? What actions will you take so not to fall into the old habits or situation again?
If you’re really honest with yourself for this exercise and can put aside the natural fear of discussing the ‘bad’, you’ll be surprised at how many valuable insights you have gained from the experience. To really power up the benefits of WLC, try the following:
- Do your WLC as soon as possible after the project finishes, when the memories are fresh and the victories/pains still feel real.
- Do it as a project team, this is especially relevant if you’ll be working together again.
- If you’re doing an individual WLC, do it with someone neutral who can facilitate and critique your thoughts. Write it up somewhere and share it with others (e.g. at a team day). Not only does this help you re-live the reflection, it also helps others to learn from your experiences and in turn you learn from others when they do the same exercise.
Having carried out a WLC exercise recently with a colleague, he paused and said ‘wow, I’d have actually paid money for those learns!’. This for me really summarises the importance of reflecting.