Navigation (CAP 4)


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The coach as co-navigator

The bilateral (fn. -- cross-reference synallagmatic) Coaching Action Plan is to orient the strategy formation process, and to communicate it.  The plan incorporates

1.a coaching objective

2. specific desired coaching outcomes
An example of turbulence follows:

1.a coaching objective

• Enable my strategic business unit (sbu) to bring better products to market faster in order to achieve that first mover advantage so important for gaining market share and maximizing experience curve benefits. 

"Achieving the objective above depends on a great many factors.  Some of them, of course, are beyond my control -- such as the economy and the actions of my competitors.  However I have prepared a list of specific areas where improvement would contribute to reaching this objective:"

Primary coaching question (PCQ): Before we discuss your wish list of specific coaching outcomes, how effective do you feel your time management is for yourself?  What portion of your time is spent with meetings, on the telephone, with interventions, with management development, with hiring interviews, with attorneys, with planning for the long term, with reading staff reports, with public speaking, with the press, and with other responsibilities such as serving on outside boards, or on charities?

After having considered that, how best should we go about the discovery process (PCQs,) to lay the foundation for reaching your objective?  Specifically, what PCQs are relevant?

The above questions about the client's use of time are crucial. (fn.)  Setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them is a meaningless exercise, unless the client keeps track of his time to ensure the plan gets executed. 

Secondary Coaching Question, SCQ: Under each coaching outcome an example of a Secondary Coaching Question (SCQ) is given in small print.  In practice, the PCQs lay the foundation for asking much more specific, targeted secondary questions than the ones given here.

2.Stated "wish list" of specific desired coaching outcomes, development of or improvement in:

• the system to elicit product innovation (fn.) suggestions, especially from customers
SCQs: What preferential (fn.) treatment of Beta customers has been best received? Why?
• our ability to create a dominant  brand  (See Part II, Chapter Q for a brief treatment of this crucial business driver.)
SCQs:  What are the key drivers for branding in your most important markets? Why?

• a better way to determine the effectiveness of our advertising so that our marketing budgets reflect that.
SCQ: Who would be the best people to staff a team, in cooperation with your lead advertising agency, to analyze selected campaigns in terms of cost per lead/cost per close? 

• skills in negotiating win/win with our single source suppliers
SCQ: How is negotiation, a learned skill, acquired and disseminated (fn.) and performance monitored, so that an institutional memory for negotiations is developed? (Cf. Part II, Chapter abc  Negotiation, A Coach's Primer  No, I changed this.)

• our program to attract, retain and develop "high potentials"
SCQ: What role do assessment centers, in-box tests and student internships play? (footnote assessment centers and inbox tests -- and refer to Appendix about inbox tests)

• higher production at better quality levels from that one "problem factory"  (Cf. Part II, Chapter  IV  The Lean Production Intervention Audit)
SCQ: What roles do the plant manger, self-directed work teams, industrial robots, and systems such as Six Sigma play at this "problem factory" versus the best performing ones?

• our "cultural competence", for instance, in China.
SCQ: What lessons have been learned so far, and how does China fit into the overall strategy?   

The above, if not chaos, is certainly turbulence.   The list of desired outcomes would make for a smorgasbord, (fn.), indeed a veritable (fn.) banquet, of consulting projects.  Banquets are impressive, spectacular events, and, sometimes, precisely what are called for.  However they tend to be expensive, sometimes horrendously (fn.) so.  Furthermore, after the feast, people will still need to eat in the weeks to come.  However a series of banquets is not a practical solution for nutrition (fn.) over the long term, any more than a series of consulting projects is for the ongoing, day to day management of a corporation,   

That day to day management is tine intensive.  The more senior the executive, the more demands there are on his increasingly scare -- and valuable -- time. The demands on time for sector heads or CEOs are frequently extraordinary.  They are putting out brush fires (fn.) in one area, while simultaneously fighting a full blown raging forest fire in another. "He can't see the trees for the forest" becomes doubly true when the executive is faced with an imminent (fn.) -- or actual -- forest fire.   Corporate strategy and management development can easily receive short thrift (fn.).  Attention spans (fn.) become shorter as the frequency -- and size -- of the fires increase.  Faculty at leading universities such as Columbia, M.I.T. and Harvard have commented that in their seminars for senior executives, the more senior the person, the shorter the attention span becomes, shortest of all for the CEO of a major corporation.  The CEO is constantly faced with the most extreme data overload of all. 

The challenge is to navigate the turbulence. (Footnote:  A more sophisticated statement would be that the challenge is to align discrete heterogeneous (fn.) actions with a continuous homogeneous (fn.) strategy.)  Turbulence is as much a part of the management world as it is of the ocean.  We live in a non-linear world 

Turbulence leads to strategy formation being subordinated (fn.) to taking action now, preferably on a matter which can be implemented (fn.) immediately and have an impact on the next quarter's earnings (fn.).  Over time, the cumulative (fn.) effect of multiple "necessary decisions" falls short of expectations. (fn.)  One needs to improve the process of making and implementing (fn.) decisions over the long term.   One help to doing just that is executive coaching.

Strategy formation is an on-going process.  To be cogent, a strategy must be able to accommodate (fn.) change, to be flexible.  The essence (fn.) of dealing with change is the ability to negotiate.  Strategy driven negotiations seek to achieve the win/win that is fundamental to reaching consensus (fn.) over the long term.