Coaching Wednesdays: Fit for purpose – design your in-house programme to reflect the VUCA environment

Change is the common denominator amongst many organisations these days – from full restructures and redundancies, through changing processes and procedures in line with government and professional body policies to new or upgraded software systems. This is known as a VUCA environment – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Coaching is one very effective way to support staff through change and the uncertainty it brings.  But designing and implementing a traditional in-house coaching programme is resource heavy.  It takes a significant amount of time and commitment.

First of all there needs to be buy in from the senior management team, an agreed understanding of what coaching can and cannot achieve, and a clear set of criteria for joining the programme.  Next there needs to be a group of qualified in-house coaches, then coaches and coachees will need to be matched, and then engage in contracting and build trust and rapport, agree goals and number of sessions. Typically coaches and coachees will meet face to face for an hour for up to 6 sessions.

BUT is that still the best way?  Or is it time to do things differently?

After all in the context of a VUCA environment staff need to be adaptable, innovative, resilient and motivated.  Can a coaching programme be designed in a way which encourages and embeds these skills?

An article by Wilson & Lawton-Smith (2016) features a coaching programme at TalkTalk which was designed for their VUCA environment.  It’s worth exploring as it demonstrates how design can reflect business culture and priorities.  Outcomes reported from the programme are in line with what you would expect from a typical 6 session programme with the same coach i.e. increased confidence, useful insights, improved self-awareness, better communication etc. But it is the design which is so interesting and which warrants further investigation.  Here are the main points from the case study to consider along with my thoughts in bold:

  1.  All staff were given the option of up to 3 x 90 minute coaching sessions over a 12 month period – love the inclusivity 
  2. Staff booked their own sessions as and when required – it’s staff that need to take the initiative which means they are motivated and likely to follow through on actions.  And it is clear that each session is expected to be effective and yield results
  3. There were 4 external coaches but no ongoing relationship so staff could see different coaches across the 3 sessions – this demonstrates real trust in the coaching process rather that purely the relationship.
  4. The organisation did not set the goals, coachees were free to discuss any workplace issue and set their own goals.  Empowerment!
  5. TalkTalk did not require the coachee or external coach to report back on outcomes – again this signals trust in the process and assures staff of confidentiality

This is an example of a coaching programme for the modern workplace.  Agile, flexible, responsive and demonstrating complete trust in staff, their coaches and the process.

Coaching has arrived in the 21st Century!



Wilson W., Lawton-Smith C., Spot-Coaching: A new approach to
coaching for organisations operating in the VUCA environment International Coaching Psychology Review l Vol. 11 No. 1 March 2016

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