Lean Tools & Techniques in Becoming Self-Aware

Most people consider their thoughts to be who they are and can’t separate themselves from them. This means that our emotional state at any given time determines our next actions. Depending on how we’re feeling, our emotions can make us quite unproductive or even counterproductive.

Becoming more self-aware helps us to separate the emotions from our other thoughts, allowing us to progress with tasks objectively.

What is Self-Awareness? 

Self-awareness is all about looking at our own actions from an outsider’s perspective. It’s removing the emotion from the situation and finding the most objective viewpoint. This allows us to find the most effective path to our goals and provide constant feedback on our own processes to ensure that we constantly remove waste and increase productivity.

From a lean point of view, this is invaluable insight to ourselves and our customers (at work & at home). In a way, it is like they say “do unto others…”. If you do not expect bad service, do not expect to get away with giving bad service. If you expect to buy a very good quality product at a very “cheap” price, you should expect to offer the same in your business. If you expect to get something for nothing, be prepared to give and not get anything back.

Only by becoming truly self-aware, are we able to achieve leaner processes. Self-awareness causes us to constantly assess our own ways of doing things allowing us to minimise wasteful steps that we charge our customers for but as importantly, on a personal level, stop throwing spanners in the works for each other, which in turn means having more time for all the fun things that we want to do in life.

How to Become Self-Aware

Becoming self-aware isn’t an easy transition. You need to accept that no one is ever perfect, and that’s okay, hence the continuous improvement ethos where we minimise waste as best we can under the current circumstances and keep doing that throughout our lifetime. You should evaluate your actions, removing the emotions you’re feeling, preferably through data, to develop sensible, productive processes to achieve positive outcomes.

Some Tips:

  1. You can process map anything! Make a list of each targeted process you have, whether in the workplace or at home, and break it down into granular detail. (Visual management by putting a picture up should go right from selecting the right nails, measuring the distance between the walls and marking your spot with the pencil). Something as simple as putting a picture up could have as many as 10 steps. Sure, this is your process, but could you “slim” it down? Or maybe, if you challenge fixed ideas and think outside the box, you may need to add more steps in order to reduce the time and effort required to get consistently good outputs, in the long run?  Remember the point of being effective & not making waste more efficient for the sake of it.
  2. Mapping can and should be done on more abstract ways. Mind mapping is already a common tool, what about behaviors & body language? Review your current situation at regular intervals throughout the day. What’s your body language displaying to others? Could you have gestured or phrased a question a little differently? Make a mental note to try mapping for self-awareness and analysis. It can be quite surprising and enlightening
  3. Before requesting something to be done, handing any work in or finishing a project/task, give it a quick look over from a “my own process” point of view. Consider what the other party might think about it. Did we just fob something off to buy time? Does it look like it’s going to be a to-and-fro process? Did we just ask for something without giving enough info/instructions and can expect (not surprised) a come-back for clarity, wasting both parties’ time?
  4. The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is ingrained into a lot of us Lean people at work but do we make time for a self-feedback loop daily? Even just 5 minutes, to look back on your day and provide yourself with honest feedback. Like they say “You can lie to others but you cannot lie to yourself”. Is there anything you would have done or behaved differently? Do you feel that you wasted your time and as importantly others’ time? Constant feedback can help you fix/minimise behavioural and thinking wastes. This in turn help you understand your NEXT customers and lead y example.

The Uses & Benefits of Self-Awareness

Achieving consistent self-awareness has many uses in everyday life, whether that’s in education, our home life or work life. 

  • It allows us to understand how other people might see our behaviour and actions plus gives us a heads-up enabling us to be in preventative mode rather than management mode.
  • The PDCA cycle gives us a method of self-reflection, so old processes can be reviewed for improvement next time around.
  • It helps highlighting areas for development not just at work but in our personal life.
  • It helps to develop stronger, more understanding relationships. If you’re reflecting on your own behaviour, you’re more likely to understand why other people behave in a certain way too. It allows for objective reflection and can improve our communication skills and increase tolerance and patience.
  • It highlights areas of waste which can be minimised to create more quality time.
  • It makes us more focused to push us towards higher achievements aiming for perfection (one of the 5 lean principles).
  • It creates a sense of confidence in decision making. If you’ve evaluated your decisions and drawn on your own feedback from previous experiences, you’re more likely to be making right choices based on data (even if it’s fag pack data!) .
  • It promotes a positive, forward-thinking attitude with the idea that no one is perfect and that step change improvements are a good thing.

Overall, using lean tools and thinking for self-awareness is a great way to review our life processes working constantly towards continuous improvement.

Self-Awareness For Newbies

I am writing from a perspective where I take for granted that most of us are practicing self-awareness in one level or another. But, for those who have just hopped on the self-awareness train, here are some basic food for thought examples you can ponder upon.

Active Listening – Active listening is something that requires a whole boatload of self-awareness, especially within the workplace. You could be sitting in one of those long, boring meetings fiddling with your pen or trying to make the world’s longest paperclip chain. Then that dreadful moment arrives when someone at the other end of the room asks you a question. The whole room turns to face you and you have no idea what the question was.

If you were self-aware, you would have been fine. You’d have recognised that you weren’t listening and your commitment to being self-aware would have made you evaluate yourself and pull yourself back into the fold. You’d have made regular eye-contact with the speaker and taken notes.

  1. You would have understood the question.
  2. You would have been able to answer immediately.
  3. You may have even prepared an answer and a supplementary question.

Outcome: You look great, engaged and intelligent in front of your colleagues and you’ve sped up the conversation, so you get to go for lunch 5 minutes earlier.

Most will not have such a problem at work, however, some may think active listening takes so much effort at work, that they feel they can do less of that at home. Do I need to spell out the consequences?

Productivity – Procrastination is a massive issue, especially when it comes to facing those household chores. You’ll sit on the sofa with a nice, relaxing cup of coffee ready to binge Netflix, but out of the corner of your eye, you notice a pile of dishes on the kitchen counter. You’re tempted to leave them. They’ll still be there later on, right?

It gets to ‘later on’ and you’re now too tired to wash up, so they get left until the morning. In the morning you come down to a dirty kitchen which just puts you in a bad mood before a long day of work.

If you’d been self-aware, you’d have reflected on your decision to procrastinate, been objective about your emotions at the time and drawn from previous experience, knowing that you would regret the decision in the morning. You would also:

  1. Have a clean kitchen.
  2. Have been able to relax without the guilt of the dishes hanging over your head.
  3. Have had a more productive and positive start to the next morning.

Outcome: You feel rested and relaxed coming into a clean kitchen and you can start your day on a high, meaning that you’re more likely to produce a higher quality of work.


Self-awareness is important, and so is taking some much needed ‘you time.’ Understanding that self-criticism can be a good thing and learning from your mistakes can help you to develop stronger, healthier relationships in the future, give you more confidence in your own decisions and push you to the next level when it comes to productivity.

Give it a go, see if you can develop your LEAN lifestyle by becoming self-aware.