WORKING professionals agree that every day tends to be busy. They are preoccupied with work and rarely make time for self-reflection or soul-searching - until it is triggered by critical situations or crises in their personal or professional lives.

Self-reflection is about regularly examining what works and what doesn't. People who do not do this do not understand its value.

Self-reflection is a process of learning for individuals as well as for institutions. It is about asking purposeful questions about past experiences and the lessons gleaned from them.

Reflective practice

To enhance the teaching profession, teachers are encouraged to engage in reflective practice. It is a concept introduced by thinker Donald Schn in The Reflective Practitioner, published in 1983.

Schn defines reflective practice as thoughtfully considering one's own experiences in applying knowledge to practice while being coached by professionals in the discipline.

Reflective practices in schools is supported by mentor, peer assessments on lesson delivery or both. Through self-reflection, sharing and coaching with mentors or peers, more ideas and new knowledge will be generated.

Teachers are given time and space to reflect on their classroom practice conducted the week before, to write down their weekly learning and to plan their lessons for the week in advance. Doing so enables teachers to be more mindful of their professional practice and be more confident.

Business excellence

For public and private organisations, senior management can practise structured self-evaluation of their organisation's management quality by using the Singapore Business Excellence framework.

Administered by Spring Singapore, it helps organisations to determine their level of progress and apply the performance excellence standards to enhance their capabilities.

OCBC Bank is using this approach for self-assessment and continuous improvement as a commitment to drive quality, service excellence and best practices.

The Business Excellence process identifies the bank's strengths and weaknesses with feedback from an external group of assessors. The bank believes that this is an opportunity for staff to learn, grow and serve their customers better.

Committed to differentiating itself through service excellence, OCBC is equipping staff with competencies to build emotional engagement with customers and colleagues. Since 2006, it designed and rolled out a series of structured Building Emotional Engagement (BEE) programmes for all staff.

Unlike conventional training, each BEE programme comprises a workshop followed by a 90-day on-the-job reflective practice. Staff will be certified only when the desired behaviours are consistently observed over the 90-day duration. Reflective practice has enabled OCBC staff to reinforce learned behaviours.

In addition, staff from various branches takes a few minutes each day to reflect their thoughts for the day by sharing a story or experience and encouraging each other.

A campaign that works

A service organisation in Japan, which won the Japan Quality Award (JQA) recently, shared its organisation's self-reflection practice, also known as the Arigato Campaign.

Each year between Jan 5 and March 5, the organisation launches its Arigato Campaign to coincide with the annual planning cycle. During this time, every employee wears a badge to serve as a constant reminder for self-reflection and soul-searching.

They are encouraged to question and think how they can provide the best customer service. During this period, "mystery shoppers" are deployed to evaluate the service delivery. Feedback provided by mystery shoppers is used by staff for self-assessment.

The organisation has run the Arigato Campaign for the past 26 years, topping the industry-wide customer satisfaction survey in Japan for the last seven years.

Make it a habit

Take the time to reflect on what has happened in the course of your job, and think how you can go about your tasks in different and better ways.

Start the habit of self-reflection now. You will find the experience invigorating, allowing you to attain new understanding and renewed energy to improve your performance.