To Transform, Develop People

Requires a
Focus on

What does coaching have to do with lean and agile approaches to work? Let’s get on the same page with some definitions:

Lean management is a systematic method of continuous improvement focused on the elimination of waste of any type.

Agile transformation seeks to gradually transform an organization so that it can embrace and thrive in a flexible, collaborative, self-organizing, and fast-changing environment.

Coaching is not mentoring (sharing prior experience or what’s worked in the past). Leaders who adopt a coaching approach to management focus on developing the thinking, performance, and abilities of their people by asking questions and listening. These leaders also focus on their own development, embracing their continuous improvement in how they show up as leaders.

Why we should relentlessly focus on development.

Organizations can more fully embrace lean and agile approaches when they also embrace the continual development of every person in the organization. The Agile Manifesto clearly states that individuals and interactions are more important and more valuable than processes and tools. Becoming relentlessly focused on the development of people lines up with this thinking.

Developing to be agile and lean is not just about learning new skills, such as holding more effective meetings or following better processes for developing work. Agile and lean are also about developing our level of thinking:

  • How we view the world
  • How we process information
  • Our ability to see the potential in any given situation, individual, and relationship

We are speaking here of the difference between horizontal learning and vertical development. Horizontal learning is about mastering new tools and processes. Vertical development is about developing new mindsets and ways of looking at the world.

Vertical development vs. horizontal development graph that effects lean and agile strategies

Agile and lean approaches bring with them many useful tools and processes, which makes horizontal learning easy to invest in. But those tools and processes are limited in their effectiveness to the degree that leaders and their people are able and willing to engage in their own vertical development to embrace lean and agile mindsets.

How can organizations grow the vertical development of their people? Through coaching.

Agile coaching has become a recognized approach to creating and enabling agile organizations. A culture of coaching brings a commitment to constant professional development for everyone: leaders and workers at every level. Through coaching, organizations can empower people at all levels to develop their mindsets, beliefs, and behaviors to embrace lean and agile mindsets. And at the same time, the leaders who coach must develop themselves even as they develop their people through coaching.

Organizations that want to constantly evolve and transform—that want to fully embrace lean and agile approaches to work—can use coaching to successfully unleash every employee’s best thinking and best work.

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