The power of reflection

A new firm, new colleagues, opportunities and challenges. Having spent 13 years at a boutique consultancy and having recently been acquired by one of the big four, never has it been more poignant to reflect on what I’ve achieved, and what I could achieve.

Reflection is a critical part of learning. While learning from experience is also critical, combining it with the intentional attempt to draw out and understand key lessons taught by what you’ve done, can be so much more powerful and rewarding. It can also be difficult accepting you might not have always made the best choices, but ultimately it will build our confidence to achieve our next set of goals.

True reflection, however, takes time. Pondering in the shower and on the way to work only goes so far, real learning only happens when you take time out to do so.

This can feel luxurious when you need to move onto the next job and have a new set of deadlines.
So how can we ensure it’s done?

• Build reflection and review time into your project plan. Both immediately after the project has closed, and at a further point – in three or six months’ time.
• Ensure you, and your colleagues, value this time. Reflection is as valuable as delivering. Understanding what you will get from it will help you with the next point.
• Commit to the time you’ve set aside to review. It’s tempting to move onto the next job and push back meetings, but be disciplined with yourselves and colleagues to make this important step happen.

If we don’t learn from our experiences, we’ll only stand still. And when everything and everyone around us is moving, we can’t afford for that to happen.

So, surrounded by the old and faced with the new, I’ve been reflecting an incredible lot lately. 

Looking back and considering, what have we achieved? Did we meet our objectives and have the impact we hoped for? Did we always approach things in the right way? How did we work as a team, did everyone play to their strengths? Could we have used alternative channels, had a different budget? Was the timing right?

Looking forward and considering, could we do things differently? What more could we achieve, how do we build on what we’ve done? Who else could we reach and involve? What other tools and resources are available? What opportunities and challenges do they provide?

Whether through innovation – using new methodologies, technologies – or entering a new market, working with new colleagues – different functions, levels of seniority, or subject matter experts – we should always interpret what we’ve learnt and try new things.

Each year I’ve always promised to try at least two new ideas. This year I’ll inevitably try a lot more. I’ll only achieve this if I afford myself the discipline to reflect on what we’ve learnt – what worked, and what didn’t, and listen to ideas and insights from colleagues and clients.

Kirsty Hall, Chair, PM Forum London