Coaching and Mentoring in a Continuous Improvement Environment
The Lean Thinker Who is Capable of Creating Other Lean Thinkers
by Chet Marchwinski
From Lean Enterprise Institute
I sat down with LEI faculty member David Verble to talk about the lean coach's role in developing team members who know how to solve problems. Watch the video for our entire conversation and read on for excerpts and highlights from the interview.
On the value of a coach to the team or organization:
"The coach can help people get more focused on exactly what the problem is and prompt them to go to the actual site of the problem… to learn more about what’s actually happening. This makes problem solving much more precise, much more focused, and greatly increases the [chance] that improvements are sustainable. Ideally managers would do this, but in most companies, it’s people from some kind of lean background… Most people don’t have preparation in how to coach and help other people develop their thinking."
On what he's perceived about the need for training on coaching skills:
"I talk to a lot of people, particularly in hospitals who are seeking these skills… There’s a lot of [responsibility] being put on these folks to be the leading edge in their organization in terms of developing a continuous improvement culture."
On what it means to be a “developmental” coach:
"The purpose is to help develop the problem solving thinking of people at the operational level… so it doesn’t rest on the coach or the coordinator to be the primary problem solver… 'Engagement' is fine, but the next step is develop people to become more self-sufficient problem solvers… This kind of coaching [prompts] people to look at their own thinking."
On humble inquiry:
"The coach does not [act] as the expert. The coach does not assume that he or she knows more than the person who owns the problem and has brought the problem to everyone’s attention… It’s about asking the person you’re coaching to think and also reflecting on what they know. The 'humble' piece of this comes from the work of an MIT professor, Ed Schein… It’s about prompting people to access things they know that they aren’t necessarily pulling in to their problem solving."
On why regular reflection matters so much to building a more capable, successful organization:
"Reflection is not something that is particularly common or typical in our North American, results-oriented approach. We tend to ask, 'Did we get the result? No? Let’s move on.' There’s no learning from that! So [reflection] has to be facilitated by a coach; we’re not in the habit of doing it."