Definition of Done for Coaching?

Wikipedia phrases Definition of Done as follows:

The exit-criteria to determine whether a product backlog item is complete. In many cases the DoD requires that all regression tests should be successful.

Probably based on this I have lately been in discussions related to Coaching and DoD. The question that has been put on the table has been: what is the Definition of Done for coaching i.e when coaching is not anymore needed? I have been pretty confused about this and have been trying to think why this kind of angle seems to be very important to some people.

My conclusion is that when someone sees Lean-Agile transformation as a methods and process change this thinking also reflects to coaching. In general a process change has start and end stages. Then you apply the new process for a while and change it again (if there is seen a need). In this perspective I try to understand that this question might be natural to some people who think this way.

For me this is also clear indication that these people have not fully understood the change that Lean-Agile brings to the organizational mindset and culture. In reality the practices/process part is merely a tool that supports bigger, more fundamental change in organizations and especially how they are led. This is the key part that needs to be understood in its entirely before real change can happen. Agile is by nature empirical and has built-in the thinking of continuous improvement. How could continuous improvement have DoD?

Yet another viewpoint is traditional role thinking in large organizations. Usually process thinking implies that role descriptions are described in detail:

Top management must ensure the job responsibilities and authorities are clear defined and communicated to all level of people within the organization (ISO 9001)

Our organization has had a bit different approach into this. We have defined coaching based on the understanding in general agile and lean literature and put focus on the continuous communication and discussion, which is complemented with the nature of complex adaptive systems: you are not able to model it. Nor are you able to document what is a definitive role description for coaches.

To nail it: some people might see coaching as supporting activity during a process (Agile) change. This implies that Lean-Agile thinking has not yet fully reached these people. It is a warning sign to the organizations and to change this we have to apply more coaching.

Coaching is key asset and absolutely critical for modern R&D organizations to succeed on a long term. Coaching brings the values and thinking into the picture and helps organizations and people to overcome traditional process thinking. Many aspects of coaching touch the soft part of systems and organizations: how people interact and how could they continuously improve.

How it is in your organization?

About Henri Kivioja

I believe in teams, personal development, humanity and good life.
This entry was posted in Agile Thinking, Change, Coaching, Continuous Improvement, Leadership, Lean, Transformation and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Definition of Done for Coaching?

  1. Johan (Welund) Westerlund says:

    For how long you need a coach? As long you like to have a winning team!

  2. Outi Vaattanen says:

    Great post!

  3. Hi what you are talking about as coaching I would say is more process mentorship. Regardless I would say the DoD of Coaching is:

    1. The organization/team/individual have the awareness and the ability to create awareness about how the world is and what they need to do

    2. The organization/team/individual have taken the responsibility to take action on the awareness and also have the ability to instill this in recent hires, etc

    3. The organization/team/individual has the self-belief that they are able to do what they see is necessary to do and also have the ability to build self belief in others

    In other words they have gained the ability of self-coaching.

    If the above is true for an organization I don’t think there is a need anymore to talk about coaching.

    I would argue that the bureaucratic system that is prevalent in most organizations (not only companies) effectively work against the above because:
    1. The boss is supposed to know what should be done, and in some respect how to do it. You don’t need to know.
    2. There are bosses and structures to take care of the responsibility. You don’t need to take it.
    3. The above effectively reduces your self-belief.

    This would not be so severe in a company if not that we, especially older generations, have been trained during our school years, etc, to think this is the only way.

    Did that help? if not send me an email or DM.


    • Henri Kivioja says:

      Hi Emil,

      what you describe here is in my eyes pretty idealistic approach into this. There is nothing wrong with that (do not get me wrong) but I have been lately drown into cold hard reality. My surroundings are far from ready to understand any deeper meanings coaching (or systems thinking) could have for an organization. What is an organization anyway: a model we create in our minds in order to try to model the world around us. I believe that there are no definite answers, only different observations and interpretations of the context. What differs is what people try to get from these: changing the world or getting bang for the buck.



    • JH says:

      Hi Emil,

      My reflection is that there is always an added value in being coached (by someone external to the process or actual work done), given that the coaching is done correctly. So for me, there is no DoD for coaching.

  4. nosapience says:

    Just got to love the “epistemantics” (made up word for talking about very old ideas with a juxtaposition of fashionable vocabulary so as not to sound dull). The process disciples, use the language of process to describe everything whether it’s a process or not. Life is reduced to born>grow>learn>love>marry>suffer>divorce>drink>die!

    A very very long time ago some old wise wise geezers said that a process is always defined by a highly specified and predetermined end point. That would be exactly when, where and how you will die and If you don’t have it, it’s not a process and therefore the affects of the paradigm are only loosely relevant. Processes are hierarchies in two dimensions, people are experiences in three. So add to your process, the additional dimension of experience and the DoD for coaching is merely the moment it starts.

    By the way, coaching had to be invented because we kept retiring off all the organisational granddads, to give the go-getters somewhere to go-get … away from the real work!!

    It’s our own fault … Great blog!

    • Henri Kivioja says:

      I tend to agree with your comment: it is our own fault. Or actually it is the system that talks, not individuals as such. Thanks for the comment!


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