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“I need a Lean Coach!” That is great to hear! But if you hire one, do you really need coaching, or do you actually need something else?

As coaches, we spend a lot of time coaching, but many of us spend an even larger percentage of our time training and facilitating. You often hear Lean described as a journey and when we are coaching, we act as a guide, helping people along that journey.


Counter intuitively, we do this best by not giving people the answers. The hardest lessons, the ones we struggle to figure out ourselves, are often the ones we remember best; and are most proud of. The lessons handed to us on a silver platter, not so much. Not to mention, one of the best ways to inspire buy-in to an idea is for people to discover it for themselves.

Instead of giving people the answers, we ask good questions to help them think through the solution on their own instead. Good questions are:

1. Open ended
2. Non-Leading
3. Non-Judgmental

Open ended to get them thinking about their own ideas, non-leading to give them mental space to find their own ideas, and non-judgmental so they feel emotionally secure to consider all ideas.


Has anyone seen the gaping hole yet? This type of coaching only works if there is a baseline level of knowledge! If I’m trying to coach a Superintendent through getting their team to complete work more reliably but he or she doesn’t have a solid grasp of The Last Planner System®, I better have another path I’m hoping to lead them down or be prepared for them to get frustrated and angry with all the ‘Good Questions” I’m asking that are going right over their head! You must learn to walk before you can learn to run.


This is where good training comes in. Training moves us from Unaware to Aware and often into Understanding if we can couple it with some solid facilitation that allows us to closely couple learning with action.


Additional guided facilitation can give us more practice to cement our Understanding and begin to move to Competence.

It’s at this point as we’re working on moving from Understanding to Competence that a good coach can be the faithful guide, there to withhold the easy answers, ask us some good questions, and help us figure things out for ourselves to strengthen our skills.


Can you guide yourself on this journey? Of course! But like a light in the dark that illuminates your path and speeds you on your way, a good coach can help you be more deliberate in your practice and improvement.


So, the bottom line is each person needs training first, followed by tightly coupling that training with action through a coach’s facilitation. Then, when a baseline of Competence is established you’re ready for true coaching, and those great open-ended, non-leading, non-judgmental questions that will take you to the next level.

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Since joining Construction Accelerator, Andy has coached dozens of different project teams in the Last Planner® System in design and construction, and helps project teams to understand and use Lean tools such as Root Cause Analysis, A3 Thinking and Decision Making, Value Stream Mapping, and Rapid Improvement (Kaizen) Events.