EPIC goals of coaching

Coaching doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it isn’t purposeless. I’ve found it useful to think about coaching in terms of goals, and in particular what kinds of goals we can establish.

I found four:

  • Coaching for Education has as its aim the provision of knowledge, skills. Training, workshops, skills mentoring, establishing reading and coding groups.
  • Coaching for Performance entails helping a team improve what they’re currently doing - to deepen and consolidate abilities. Retrospectives play a key part.
  • Coaching for Innovation is all about helping a team or organisation generate ideas - for products, technology, ways of working.
  • Finally, coaching for Change means working towards transformation - of individuals, teams and organisations.

EPIC - a handy (but—honestly—unintended) mnemonic. Another way of looking at this:

  • Education—increase what we know
  • Performance—optimise what we’re already doing
  • Innovation—find new things to do, new ways to work
  • Change—change the sorts of teams and individuals we are

Day-to-day work will, of course, involve aspects of each of these: they’re not independent. But knowing where to focus helps answer some questions, and will suggest in turn appropriate coaching styles and approaches (for example, Shu-Ha-Ri and Dreyfus models in education and performance, techniques such as Luke Hohmann’s Innovation Games and Michael Michalko’s Thinnkertoys for innovation, Cynefin/Cognitive Edge and social network stimulation for change).

When talking to clients about an engagement, try to understand what the main goal is. In particular, be on the lookout for the common mismatch between the customer’s stated goal (which is often performance, maybe driven by education) and what really needs to happen with the teams and organisation (change).

4 Responses to “EPIC goals of coaching”

  • Lyssa Adkins responded:

    I just came across your blog in Plamen’s weekly agile links collection. Sounds like we are working in the same general area. Nice to meet someone else interested in coaching (an Innovation Games, and Cynefin, and…)! And your work with Joseph, Rachel and others on unleashing team brilliance looks amazing. I’ll be seeing Joseph at the Scrum Gathering in Orlando but, sadly, our sessions are opposite one another so I cannot attend his. I know I would learn so much from him (and you) because we are approaching the same work from different angles.

    Cheers to you!

  • David responded:

    Hi Lyssa - thanks for the feedback! I’m sorry I won’t be in Orlando, but I’m sure our paths will cross. Looking forward to talking about your book with you!

  • J. B. Rainsberger responded:

    Have you read the Inner Game of Work? The author presents an alternate model of training and coaching.

    performance = potential - interference

    Training has the goal of increasing potential; coaching has the goal of reducing interference.

    I would say that E and I are training issues, while P and C are coaching issues.

    Thanks for the mnemonic. I don’t think I’ll forget it soon.

  • David responded:

    That’s a nice take on it - thanks. I’m assuming by “interference” you mean us getting in our own way, rather than being tripped up by external obstacles (getting rid of which is a function of management?). I’ll check out the book, which I’ve heard of but not read.

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