Transformational coaching

Transformational coaching is about creating sustainable and significant change. It concerns how we can improve behaviours and outcomes by fostering a mindset and/or culture shift at different levels (organisational, team and individual) to create a better impact. This mindset/culture shift is what we call evolving or, colloquially, levelling up.

This is the big difference between transformation and transition. In a transition we change the method of doing something. In a transformation we change the mindset, the values, the principles and the method. Examples of transformation is from chaos to structure, from Waterfall to Agile, from technology focus to product focus, from listening to yourself to listening to others, from conflict to collaboration.

One key ingredient when transforming is that there is value in our current behaviours, we are doing them for a reason. For instance, there are a lot of good practices in Waterfall methods that can help in many situations. So for each step we take, we try to bring the best of the previous step into the next. We transcend and include to get the best possible outcome. As an example, using an Agile approach for higher risk products and a Waterfall approach for lower risk products.

To be able to evolve, we need to deliberately create a space for evolving (organisational, team and individual development). My usual approach to this is to explain the parts of a transformation and define possible actions in each part. The parts are listed below with examples of actions.

Attain Comprehension

By understanding the current state of the organisation and the needs of the people involved, a first assessment is crucial for seeing what challenges and opportunities exist for the transformation.

Possible actions

  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Observation to assess current practices and behaviours
  • Contextual interviews
  • Active listening in one-on-ones with involved people, gathering needs/motivations

Promote Awareness

In order to be able to change, it is necessary that people are aware of the problems, gaps and needs, which helps people to identify the opportunities.

Possible actions

  • Teaching mental models to help map out the situation
  • Coaching individuals to help them visualise the situation
  • Coaching leadership skill development
  • Facilitating workshops to get a shared view of the situation
  • Setting up metrics as enablers of awareness

Boost Ownership

Awareness can lead people toward engagement. The humans who are going through the change need to be responsible for the solution, with the coach acting as support only.

Possible actions

  • Coaching individuals and teams to give them the means and (psychological) mandate to take on the problem and get them committed
  • Follow up commitments and metrics
  • Finding their spheres of influence and facilitate the conversation with their manager

Develop Competencies

Helping people learning new skills (both hard and soft competencies) is essential so that they feel that they can take responsibility themselves

Possible actions

  • Coaching individuals to find answers themselves, through both horisontal and vertical (developmental, evolving) coaching
  • Mentoring individuals to give advice from experience
  • Teaching individuals and groups, mainly to inspire and create a learning culture
  • Training specific leaders and team members in different subjects

Facilitate Barrier Removal

During a change initiative (i.e. transformation) there are lots of obstacles to adopting new behaviours and practices. A coach needs to be a good facilitator for these necessary obstacle removals. 

Possible actions

  • Visualise the driving and restraining forces to achieve a goal during a change initiative
  • Work with leaders, adjacent teams, departments, etc. to get buy-in and support for the change
  • Create deliberate developmental conversations to evolve effectively
  • Consciously address an immunity to change to break down barriers

Catalyse Improvement

The primary element during the Agile coaching process is to provide support and facilitation throughout the change journey. Act as a catalyser for the change, if you may.

My coaching stance

  • I challenge assumptions
  • I have a holistic Integral approach to coaching (and my life)
  • I focus on long-term continuous improvement and mindset shifts
  • I do not harm the organisation
  • I never push people, I offer and invite them to be coached
  • I work myself out of a job, letting others take the lead

Every transformation is different and every client has their specific problems and opportunities. In the following section I list a couple of client cases where I have used the above mentioned steps to succeed.

Case study: From I to WE

Case client

SVT Play

Background

The 7 platform teams within SVT Play had grown apart, building different experiences. Hence, stronger collaboration and alignment was needed.

Assignment

I was assigned to help out with aligning the team around a common roadmap and build a strong culture of collaboration. I quickly saw that there was disarray within the platform teams apart from the obvious and natural disarray between teams. The focus on solo-work and even trench wars in some cases required a shift of mindset. This made the approach two-fold. Firstly, I coached the platform teams into becoming more collaborative within and being good at expressing that collaboration outwards, i.e. making their work more transparent and focused. I had help in the shape of a central collaborative team who acted as advocates. Secondly, I introduced a temporary but specific way of working structure that would force collaboration between platform teams and support the overarching SVT Play roadmap. This way of working was a necessary step to take on a maturity staircase, because the teams saw themselves as and needed to be two steps up from were they actually were.

Activities

  • Attained comprehension through stakeholder interviews, one-on-ones and observation
  • Promoted awareness through simulations of a maturity staircase mental model
  • Boosted ownership through coaching individuals and separate teams in Agile collaboration, so that they could naturally scale Agile in the whole SVT Play group
  • Developed competencies through individual mentoring and group lectures around roles and skills in Agile teams
  • Facilitated barrier removal through working with managers, managers’ managers as well as adjacent teams 
  • Catalysed improvement through challenging the assumptions of what was an Agile way of working and what steps needed to be taken to get there, by constantly repeating the maturity model’s mantra to get a mindset shift in each and every person. 

Delivery and Client benefit

I laid the groundwork for a strong collaboration culture within the whole SVT Play group (perhaps soon calling themselves one team), by transforming them from individual teams with a strong sense of ”I” to a shared sense of ”WE”. The strong way of working structure introduced to catalyse the transformation was later changed to a more sustainable version by a colleague of mine. Today, the teams have a clear and effortless way to do SVT Play-wide work. There is harmonisation between teams, platforms and also user and software interfaces through alignment around a roadmap.

A mid-transformation (6 months in) evaluation of the SVT Play group,
showing a little bit more
stress, mainly due to the tough way-of-working structure, but greater focus, happiness,
sense of meaning and engagement

Case Study: Towards efficiency

The GfK NORM team practicing effective retrospectives

Case client

GfK Norm

Background

The CTO at GfK NORM had understood that his team was more in chaos than in order, and especially not working in an Agile fashion. He needed the team to become way more efficient to tackle the delivery problems they currently had.

Assignment

I was assigned to structure the process for the team, focus the delivery efforts and make sure that the team stayed motivated. 

Activities

  • Attained comprehension and promoted awareness through facilitating a situation assessment with the team, so that everyone had the same view of the problems and opportunities, including me
  • Boosted ownership through defining a preferred future state, together with the team
  • Facilitated barrier removal through setting subgoals / work themes together and found actions to realise them. We worked especially with creating a well-oiled continuous improvement process, so that the team could easily follow-up actions, and be able to assess whether or not the actions had or would led them towards the subgoals
  • Developed competencies by coaching the group in solving their own problems together as a team
  • Catalysed improvement through being there for them whenever questions arose and following up / re-assessing the situation every other month over a 9-month period.

Delivery

  • The team got a clearer path towards the future
  • Some team members matured with the task and got increasingly motivated

Client benefit

The team could work autonomously analysing their own process problems and easily identify which problems that they could solve and which they couldn’t. This information helped the CTO to restructure his work force in a more efficient way.