“Review” was originally a term used in the game of Go, and its original meaning is to replay the game on the board after the players have finished a match.
It involves looking at where the moves were good, where they were not so good, where there could have been different or even better moves, and so on.
The process of reconstructing the game and conducting discussions and analysis is known as a “review.”
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01-When is Personal Review Needed?
Not everything requires dedicated time and a standard process for personal review. Based on my experience, here are situations where personal review can be beneficial:
- New Endeavors: If something is new to you, and you or your team are doing it for the first time, whether it was successful or not, you can quickly conduct a personal review. This helps you gain experience, learn lessons, and identify areas for improvement when you face similar tasks in the future.
- Important Tasks: For tasks that are crucial, whether they require significant resources, coordination across multiple departments, or have a substantial impact, it’s essential to approach them carefully. Preparations before the task and a review afterward are crucial. Timely summarization can help you identify patterns and increase the chances of success.
- Valuable Tasks: If there are aspects of your work that you want to improve or tasks that hold personal value for you, conducting a review after completing them can be valuable. For instance, if you wish to enhance your public speaking skills, you can review your performance after a public speaking event. Through the review, you can identify both strengths and areas for improvement, learn the intricacies of public speaking, and develop a targeted improvement plan.
- Underperforming Tasks: When something doesn’t meet expectations or experiences deviations or defects, it indicates that you or your team may not have a deep understanding of the task’s patterns, and there might be room for improvement. These are opportunities for growth and learning. Therefore, timely reviews are essential. Through the review process, you can swiftly devise action plans for improvement or remediation.
Moreover, sharing the results of the review can prevent other teams within the organization from making similar mistakes, which is crucial for organizational learning.
02-Two Methods for Personal Review
Personal review, as a method for individual learning and growth, can be carried out anytime, anywhere. The way you conduct personal review may vary depending on the size, importance, and complexity of the event:
- Simple Review: For relatively simple or straightforward events, you might spend around 10 to 15 minutes to reflect on and complete the review. It’s like what Zen Master Zengwen did, lighting a stick of incense and silently recalling the entire process in your mind. For example, after organizing a meeting, you can review the meeting’s process and outcomes to make the next one more effective. After participating in a business negotiation, you can review the strategies you used to be better prepared for future negotiations.
- Thorough Review: For long-term projects (e.g., monthly or quarterly work) or major projects and complex issues, you may need to set aside half a day or even a full day for a systematic review. During this time, you can go through the entire review process in detail. To avoid wandering thoughts, you might want to use a simple review template as a framework or jot down your thoughts with a pen.
For instance, I personally spend around an hour each month reviewing my work for the month and dedicate half a day at the beginning of the year to review the entire previous year’s work. For new activities or experiences, like when my team and I retraced the footsteps of Xuanzang’s journey in June 2015, I spent 10 to 20 minutes each day at the campsite reviewing the day’s experiences.
- Seek a Coach: Personal review can sometimes be limited by blind spots in your thinking. In such cases, it’s wise to seek a coach who has experience with structured questioning and can help guide your review. A qualified coach can remain neutral, focus on the process, stimulate thinking, provide support, and ultimately enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your review.
These two methods—simple review and seeking a coach—can be adapted based on the specific needs and circumstances of the review.
03-Considerations for Personal Review
While conducting a personal review is not overly complex, there are some key points to keep in mind to ensure its effectiveness:
- Be Honest with Yourself: Sometimes, we tend to be lenient with ourselves, exaggerating our successes or downplaying our failures or shortcomings. We may also attribute outcomes to external factors or insignificant causes as a way to justify our actions. During personal review, it’s crucial to approach the process with honesty, objectivity, and a commitment to seeking the truth. Maintain an open mindset and engage in critical thinking. Ask yourself “why” multiple times and consider different perspectives.
- Start with a Structured Approach: If you’re new to personal review or lack a consistent logic to follow, it’s advisable to start with a structured approach by following a general set of steps. This ensures that you cover the essential aspects of the review process. As you become more familiar with the logic and questions involved in personal review, you can start customizing the process to suit your specific needs.
- Record Key Points and Periodically Review: The saying goes, “The faintest ink is better than the sharpest memory.” Failure to document your reviews can lead to fading memories, potentially affecting the effectiveness of your review. However, it’s not enough to just jot down your thoughts. You should also periodically revisit and reassess your review records. Connect similar or related events, identify recurring issues, and delve into deeper underlying problems to facilitate greater personal growth.
- Maintain an Open Mind and Avoid “Experience Traps”: As mentioned earlier, personal review is a learning-oriented process that requires an open mindset. Avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly or accepting the analysis of a single event as an absolute “truth” or law. Additionally, be cautious not to let your past experiences turn into “experientialism,” where your previous experiences limit your exploration of new areas or possibilities. Remember the famous words from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford University commencement speech: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” These words can serve as a reminder to remain open to new ideas and possibilities.
To prevent falling into the trap of “experientialism” during personal review, you can consider two methods:
- First, engage in deep reflection and remain vigilant regarding the existing rules and assumptions you use in your reasoning process. Continually question whether they are still valid and avoid mindlessly adhering to them.
- Second, if necessary, employ “first principles” thinking. Start from the most fundamental principles and rules, rather than relying on previous experiences or established norms.
By following these considerations and methods, you can conduct more effective and insightful personal reviews to promote personal growth and development.