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A Coach’s Predicament

A model to assist coaches in organizational transformation

15 July 2016

Rohit Ratan Mani
Equifax UK Ltd

Drucker’s Cuckoo Effect

Am I able to coach without ruffling some feathers in an organization in which, as an outsider, I am going to bring about change? My experience as a coach (or a change agent) up to now has been that no change can take effect without running into some resistance. Getting people out of their comfort zone is one of the biggest challenges in a coaching assignment. Peter Drucker’s Cuckoo Effect, "Any foreign innovation in a corporation will stimulate the corporate immune system to create antibodies that destroy it,” summarizes every concern that a coach has.

I have tried different approaches/strategies to counter this resistance during my coaching assignments. Of all the ones that have been working for me (obviously with some resistance but with higher acceptance), I will highlight a particular one called GULP: Grow, Unlearn, Learn, and Put into Action.


The GULP model

By using the GULP four-step model, I can track my learning and the changes that the organization has undertaken. It aligns with the empirical process by which we inspect and unlearn things that are stopping us from reaching the next level to effect change.

Growth phase: This is the phase in which the organization is improving to reach the next level of growth. As a coach, you need to keep an eye on this phase, because people tend to fall back into their comfort zone as soon as they face hurdles. I continue to run retrospectives regularly with different key stakeholders to determine whether the team has been able to meet the growth that they were expecting. These retrospectives provide the insight necessary for the next phase of the model.

Unlearn phase: This is one of the toughest steps, in which the most resistance is faced. After holding retrospectives with key stakeholders, I meet with teams to understand how we can improve to meet the expectations/growth. This is still a retrospective session, but at a different level. I try different retrospective meeting techniques to keep the session focused on the final outcome. In this session, my goal is to understand the root cause of the hurdles that are hindering the team. A system thinking approach helps with drilling down to the symptoms and understanding the real concern.

Learn phase: After identifying the root causes of the hurdles, the next step is to identify areas that we should change. This involves learning and trying new techniques and practices. It can be a technical or process-related change that the team should learn. A design thinking approach helps the coach drive the team to come up with new learning that they should try.

Put into Action phase: As a team, learning is put into action. As a coach, I consider how we can measure the learning to corroborate that we are on target to meet stakeholders' expectations. A coach can use different metrics to track the progress as a result of the new learnings. I make sure that the team understands these metrics. I also make the metrics visible so that the team knows how we are faring.

Do I face resistance when using this model? I would say yes, but I feel that this model focuses more on collaboration, which mitigates the resistance to trying new things. With time, this model helps us become part of the client’s structure, which can be alarming for a coach. As that coach, I can empathize with the clients, but I try to not become part of their structure, which, from my perspective, results in cognitive blindness.

This model has worked for me, but it isn't only about applying the model — it is how I act as a coach toward the client that makes the all the difference.

I hope to hear from other practitioners about their experiences in this area.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.1 (8 ratings)


David Sosa, CSM, 7/15/2016 8:19:06 AM
Great article. Question, how do you quantify the process and each individual stage so that it can accurately be measured?

Rohit Ratan Mani, CSP,CSM, 7/18/2016 2:49:04 AM
Will post the measures and metrics that I used in my next write-up. Currently I am in process of documenting it.

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