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  • Writer's pictureTilo Schwarz

How to give better Feedback

by Tilo Schwarz | Tips for the Kata Coach | Episode 21

This article discusses how to give better feedback as a 2nd Coach.

At the end of this episode you will find the analysis of the coaching cycle from last weeks article.


Episode #21

It is a Tuesday morning, and after Denise has completed her coaching cycles with Mark and Joe, she makes her way to the Sales Administration department. Denise has offered to observe some of Jason's (who is in charge of this area) coaching cycles and give him feedback. Denise brings her coaching cycle observation form.

When Denise first observed the coaching cycles of her colleagues, she had not taken notes. However, she soon noticed that she had a hard time giving good feedback. Precise feedback requires accurate observation, was one of Denise's first conclusions as a 2nd Coach.

That was similar to sports. A sports coach observing a player, e.g., the 2nd coach observing a coach during a coaching cycle, can only address in feedback what they recognize when observing. No observation, no feedback. Therefore, observing a coaching cycle required focus and concentration. The 2nd coach replaces the video camera and afterward needs to be able to describe the course and details of the conversation to the coach. Denise used a form that she had divided into the five rows, corresponding to the 5 phases of the coaching kata.

These rows were additionally divided into two columns. One for the coach and one for the Improver. In the field, Denise takes notes when observing. Questions used by the Coach, answers, and statements from the Improver and details she observed.

Denise had also built the habit of using a stopwatch when observing a coaching cycle. She measured the duration of each of the 5 phases. Denise noted the time for each phase in the column on the right side of her observation form. To do so required some practice but was another source to identify helpful insights.

One of Denise's learnings was that phases 1 and 2, talking about Target Condition and Actual Condition, should not take longer than 1 or 2 minutes. Denise had observed that if more time is needed at this stage, it was usually an indication that the Target Condition was imprecise or data outdated or missing for the Current Condition.

In contrast, discussing the learnings from the last step and especially phase 3 about the Obstacles, was usually the longest part of the conversation. At least in good coaching cycles. If phase 3 went very quickly, problems often occurred in phase 4 with the next step. Timekeeping also forced her to pay close attention to the individual phases of the conversation. That was a good exercise and helped Denise stay focused.

To give feedback, Denise used a structure she had learned from David, the Production Manager, and her boss. This structure used three stages for the feedback and was based on delivering first-person messages.

3 Steps for giving Feedback:

1) I have observed...

2) I have the impression that...

3) From my perspective, it would be helpful…

On her way to Jason, Denise wonders what she should focus her observations on. When she first started observing Jason's coaching cycles, she had struggled not to think about the content they were discussing. To help her to observe the coach, she had developed a list of observation tasks for herself as the 2nd coach.

She takes the little card she has made from her notebook and goes through it running a rehearsal in her mind.

4 Questions for the 2nd Coach

1) Does the conversation follow the five questions?

2) Where is the Improvers threshold of knowledge?

3) Where is the conversation becoming unstructured?

4) What has the coach noticed / what not?

Denise meets with Jason a few minutes before his first coaching cycle. He greets her and says, "Thank you for taking the time to observe my coaching cycles today. I've planned two coaching cycles. The first one will be with Mary. She is working on reducing the time necessary to enter new customer orders into the system. The second coaching cycle will be with Todd. He is working to reduce the lead time for calculating new quotes. Together they make their way to meet Mary at her storyboard.

The Coaching Cycle:

Jason: "Good morning, Mary. We have scheduled our coaching cycle, is it suitable for you right now? "

Mary: "Yeah, let's go."

Jason: "I asked Denise to observe me coaching you today. She will give me feedback afterward, is that o.k. with you?"

Mary: "No problem. Good morning Denise."

Jason: "What is your Target Condition for this process?"

Mary: "I want to reduce the time needed for processing new orders from 30 to 20 minutes. Therefore I have to reduce the time needed for entering the basic order data to 4 minutes."

Jason: "And what is the Actual Condition now?"

Mary points to the charts on her board: "At the moment we need between 26 and 32 minutes for order processing because typing in the basic data just takes too long."

Jason asks, "What does too long mean in numbers?"

Mary: "The last few days were really busy, so I did not measure the time for the step 'enter basic data' with every order. But when we measured two weeks ago, it always took between 8 to 10 minutes."

Jason: "What Obstacles are preventing you from reaching the Target Condition?"

Mary: "Inserting the basic data for an order is simply too complicated. Sometimes typing in the article list takes too long then other times, it is something else. "

Jason: "And what exactly is the problem that keeps you from reaching the Target Condition?"

Mary: "Actually, I don't know exactly. It varies every time because every new order is different."

Jason: "But what could it be that makes the data entry take so long?"

Mary: "I think that the whole manual entry of the data takes a lot of time and also crosschecking the article numbers. That could easily be automated by our IT guys, I think."

Jason looks down on his card with the five Coaching Kata questions using the rule of thumb, and continues: "So what's, therefore, your next step?"

Mary: "I'll talk to Randy from IT and ask him to take a look. Maybe we can find a way to speed up the input by automating it."

Jason: "And what do you expect?"

Mary: "That I know which steps can be automated in order processing."

Jason: "When can we look at what you found out at this step?"

Mary: "If I talk to my colleagues today, maybe tomorrow or the day after, somebody could look at the topic. It is best to meet again in 3 or 4 days. I expect I will have something to share by then."

Mary writes down the agreed step on the Experimenting Record. Then they finish the coaching cycle. Denis thanks Mary for letting her observe, and Mary returns to her work.

Jason turns to Denise and says: "And, what do you think, how did it go?" He is obviously excited.

Task for the 2nd coach:

☞ Use the observation form and go through Jasons and Marys coaching cycle again. Fill out the form with your observations and apply the 4 questions for the 2nd coach.

☞ What feedback would you give Jason. Use the three-level structure described above and write down your feedback.

☞ You might want to do both exercises with a group of coaches. Just hand everybody a print out of the coaching cycle dialog. Let ever coach silently do the the above two tasks. Then discuss your results. What did you observe in common?

What are differences?

What do you learn from that?

Send me your thoughts. I like to hear from you.

Next week: Next week we will discuss the feedback Denise gives Jason and how the two of them come up helpful tips for the 2nd coach.


Analysis of coaching tricks Denise used in Episode 20:

If you wrote down your thoughts last time, you might want to get out your notes and compare your findings.

Denise: "What Obstacles prevent you from reaching the Target Condition?"

Joe: "I do not know. When the team members mount the cover, the process is different every time."

Denise: "What exactly happens in the process for the problem to occur?"

Trick: Zoom In with the Root Cause Funnel

Joe gives Denise a blank look.

Denise: "What exactly happens in the process when the team members mount the cover?"

Trick: Repeat and Add + Step on the Word

Joe roughly describes the individual steps for the assembly of the cover. Denise asks him to write them down on a sheet of paper.

Denise, "And how long did these individual steps take today?"

Joe: "That varies. Overall, it takes us between 30 and 40 minutes to mount the cover."

Denise: "And how should the process run correctly?"

Trick: Compare the Patterns

Joe: "Well, to reach our Target Condition, it should never take more than 25 minutes."

Denise: "And how long should each of the assembly steps you've noted take to achieve that?"

Trick: Repeat and Add + Zoom In (to go one detail level deeper)

If you like this post, forward it to a friend or colleague right now because they will appreciate getting helpful tips from you.



For new readers: Every week, I share hands-on tips for coaching with the Coaching Kata. This episode is part of a series of articles about Denise, who has taken on her first management position as a department manager at PowerPump Inc. Denise intends to develop her team through coaching. Read Episode 1 to get into the story.

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