Just back from participating in the 2018 Lean Coaching Summit sponsored by Lean Frontiers and the Lean Enterprise Institute, I offer the following reflections regarding coaching on a lean project.

  1. All project team members need to develop the capability to coach others. All too often coaching is limited to basic Last Planner® implementation by internal or external coaches. On the construction site, project superintendents, managers, and engineers need to be coaching trade foremen; and foremen in turn need to be coaching tradespeople. In the design office, project managers should be coaching designers and engineers. Coaching is fundamental to lean, yet it happens far too infrequently in project work. The focus of this coaching should be problem solving and skills development.
  2. Coaching needs to happen at the enterprise leadership level. Principals and project executives need to be coaching leaders on their project teams. The focus of this coaching should be on problem solving, innovation, and leadership development.
  3. Coaching is situational. It is important for coaches to meet people where they are in terms of their career, training, and expectations for work. At the same time, should their energy be in an unproductive state it is necessary to cultivate in people a mood that embraces the coaching. Coaching cannot be mandated – it must be by agreement between the coach and the coached.
  4. Effective coaching happens daily. Success in lean is built upon a series of daily habits, coaching being one of them. The coaching needn’t take long, and ten to twenty minutes each day is all that is required. It should be structured. Read The Toyota Kata Practice Guide by Mike Rother to understand one approach to structured coaching.
  5. An important element of daily coaching is the practice of reinforcing the connection between the people being coached and the purpose of their team, project and enterprise. As Jeffrey Liker points out in The Toyota Way, a passion for purpose is a fundamental lean principle. Passion is personal, and not possible until we connect with who we are at our core.

Joanna McGuffey and I addressed this final point in a breakout session and full-day workshop we led at the Summit. The title of the workshop is Creating Transformational Legacy, Coaching Teams to Embrace and Build Upon a Legacy of Enterprise and Personal Improvement, in which participants learned methods for cultivating buy-in and ongoing enthusiasm for lean practices. The day was extremely well received, and this October we will be offering a similar workshop at the Lean Construction Institute 2018 Congress in Orlando.