Growing a Coaching Community

We’ve probably all been there at one time or another in our careers. We knew that change within our organisation had to happen. We were careful and we sought input before creating our plan. With careful consideration we built a plan that encompassed all our critical stakeholders; our budget was approved by management and our first critical new changes were implemented successfully.
Great first signs – right? But wait…our plan begins to die before it even takes off. Key stakeholders who appeared to be onboard are now complacent. And perhaps even worse, they are becoming large barriers to the success of the project.

Can it be turned around?

Implementing corporate change can be one of the toughest challenges for large organisations. Software development departments that want to scale their agile projects often run into this obstacle. The agile project that may have been extremely successful within a small team or department begins to crack and fall apart as the organisation attempts to scale Agile. 

At IJI, I work with large software development organisations helping them implement effective change across geographies and cultures.  One of the key ingredients for implementing successful change is the development of a strong coaching community. We’ve used this approach at numerous organisations. KPN is one example. At the moment we’re assisting a large multi-national insurer develop their coaching community in Europe and North America as part of their change program to move from a Waterfall development approach to Agile.

Developing a coaching community is critical. What’s the point in investing in a new way of working if key people in the organisation are not all in agreement on a better, smarter way of working? The goal is to create consistency across regions.

Define Your Coaching Community

One of the first steps is to define your coaching community, such as:

  • What is a coach?
  • What are the core characteristics that a coach must exemplify?
  • How should coaches be distributed geographically?
  • How many employees will each coach support?
  • Will coaches be full-time coaches or will they coach as part of their job?

I believe that coaches must be practitioners. It’s also important that coaches are volunteers. Often coaches volunteer themselves by being interested in and offering help to their colleagues. They should not be assigned by management without their consent. An unwilling coach is a waste of time and can have a very negative effect on a change program. The energy and momentum that the coaches build in the transformation and adoption of improved ways of working needs to be protected and nurtured to allow for the success of the initiative.

Defining a coach is only one of the first steps in building a vibrant coaching community. In my next post, I’ll share with readers how to kick-start their coaching community.