Lean coaching techniques are plentiful, but most people still report a lack of real coaching going on in their organization.
With the Lean Coaching Summit earlier this summer there has been a great amount of interest in the topic. Some great methods for better coaching are out there certainly. Tracey Richardson has shared “One Simple Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Coaching” – suggesting using “I” instead of “you” – and others have talked about how to ask “open-ended” questions to get people thinking and taking ownership of their work, maybe even by using a pre-determined list like “The Five Coaching Kata Questions” from Toyota Kata.
When I get asked about helping an organization with their coaching, the first question I ask is,“In what ways do your daily management processes require coaching?”
Learning a new behavior, even something as simple of using open-ended questions is hard and takes practice. Would it not be easier if your management process actually requires it?
When I walk around with managers and watch their interactions with employees, I most often see workers “filling them in” on something that happened. Workers “report out” on what is going on and maybe the manager asks, “What help do you need from me?” The answer to this is almost always “none.” In the worst case, the manager just gives some suggestions/orders after hearing a report-out.
If we want to improve coaching, let’s build the requirement for it into the daily management process. Change the process from reporting upward to asking downward. For example, a manager observes a work cell/department activities visual (like a production by the hour board or a flipchart of issues maintained by the people doing the work). Then she asks, “I noticed we had this issue, can you tell me more about it?” This naturally leads to follow-up questions that increase a manager’s understanding of the issue while keeping the issue the responsibility of the people doing the work. Contrast this to the worker giving a report out, which in essence, hands the issue off to the manager and prompts the manager to give suggestions/answers. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.
Take a look at your daily management processes and see if you can’t find ways to design them so that the visuals lead naturally to the manager asking questions in order to gain a deeper understanding. You might be surprised by how much better managers will understand issues and, if you’re a manager, how much easier it will be to practice more effective coaching behavior.