What coaching means to me – part one

In business we hear “coaching” a lot, maybe too often. While passing over knowledge and experience or helping people to improve a practice is a good thing, the way I see coaching done is far from delivering this kind of value.

The latest case is with a large corporation having launched a Lean program – even it isn’t called Lean nor program – with a framework of principles and chosen tools, and “coaching” as a way to cascade it.

The coaching is much inspired by Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata and looks good on paper. The limitations and flaws appeared when I witnessed it being done.

The coaching starts from the top of the hierarchical pyramid and is supposed to be cascaded down by each layer to the next subordinate one.

The “master coaches” come from a central Lean Promotion Office, young brilliant people familiar with the theory and trained to support the corporate program. Very few have any practical experience with applying Lean methods, tools or techniques.

These coaches will set appointments with managers and train and coach those to gemba-walk and carry out a much scripted routine. The coaching is merely explaining the procedure or script, give some side explanations about purpose and consistency within the corporate program and most of all, stand behind the coachee with a kind of checklist and make sure the procedure is accurately followed.

Obviously what matters to these coaches is the compliance to the scripted routine. If the gemba-walker is unable to notice problems and improvement points it is unimportant as long as the routine is carried out correctly. I assume the coaches would not be able to spot the problems and improvement points neither, as so many problems are left unattended even after series of scripted gemba walks.

Once these routines are consistently carried out in appropriate manner, the coachee is qualified to coach his/her subordinates in a similar way.

The cascading coaching is planned over the year and it will take about that time to get a department through the whole cascading process.

Unlike Mike Rother’s recommendations, these coachings are not everyday practice, but scheduled events. As you can guess, the middle management considers it as additional chore, and goes through it dragging feet just to be compliant and avoid trouble.

>Read part two

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