How To Support Teams’ Learning And Development Needs

Organisations can fundamentally support their teams’ learning and development needs by cultivating an environment that fosters intrinsic motivation. But how to achieve that?

One approach is the adoption of the Toyota Kata model. The term ‘Kata’, borrowed from martial arts, refers to a structured routine practiced so it becomes second nature. Toyota applies this concept in the realm of continuous improvement and coaching.

To put it simply, Toyota Kata isn’t about providing answers, but about establishing an organisational culture that motivates individuals to discover solutions themselves. This inherently appeals to intrinsic motivation, as employees are driven by the satisfaction of mastering challenges, the thrill of problem-solving, and the joy of personal development. They’re not learning and developing because they’re told to, they’re doing it because they want to.

Organisations utilising the Toyota Kata model promote a learning mindset where curiosity, creativity and resilience are valued. They foster an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes, as they’re considered part of the learning process. This can reduce or eliminate the fear of failure, which significantly hinders innovation and risk-taking.

Further, the Kata routines can ensure teams have a clear focus and direction. Through the Improvement Kata, employees are guided to understand the direction, grasp the current condition, establish the next target condition, and experiment towards that target. When people know where they’re headed and why, it encourages them to take ownership of their roles and fosters intrinsic motivation.

Moreover, the Coaching Kata supports managers in developing their subordinates by not simply providing solutions, but by asking insightful questions that encourage critical thinking. This way, managers become facilitators for growth rather than just taskmasters. This coaching approach can instill a sense of competence and autonomy, which are key components of intrinsic motivation.

Toyota Kata isn’t about achieving perfection, but about continuous learning and improvement. By acknowledging this journey and celebrating the learning process, organisations can make their teams feel valued and motivated to continue their development.

So, an organisation’s support for its teams’ learning and development needs goes way beyond merely offering training programmes or growth opportunities. It’s about creating a culture of continuous improvement and learning, fostering intrinsic motivation, and supporting this with models like Toyota Kata. When organisations achieve this, they’ll likely see not only improvements in their team’s skills and capabilities, but also enhanced engagement, productivity, and innovation.

Organisational Culture Is No Sidetrack

Attending to your organisation’s culture can feel like being sidetracked because it’s often seen as a secondary task. Leaders and employees often prioritise achieving their objectives over examining and improving the culture. Additionally, focusing on culture can sometimes feel intangible and abstract, leading some to dismiss it as a frivolous concern.

However, ignoring or neglecting culture can have significant consequences for an organisation’s success. Poor culture leads to high employee turnover, low morale, and decreased productivity, which can quickly impact the bottom line. Culture is not a separate issue from the rest of the organisation’s operations but rather an intrinsic part of it. By prioritising culture, organisations can create a positive work environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and creativity, quickly leading to increased success and growth.

In short, while attending to an organisation’s culture may feel like a detour from the primary objective, many have discovered that it’s a vital aspect of building a successful and sustainable organisation.


Why Coaching Is a Waste of Time: The Importance of Fixing the System

Coaching individuals is often seen as a valuable tool for improving organisational performance, but the reality is that it is a total waste of time and effort as it’s the system that accounts for 95% of any individual’s performance. “The system” refers to the environment, processes, structures, and culture within which individuals operate. While coaching can certainly help an individual improve their personal skills and abilities, it cannot fix a broken system. Many call this “fixing the five percent”.

Note that Gallup, a well-known research-based consulting company, has published studies and reports that support the idea that the system plays a significant role in individual performance.

The problem with coaching individuals is that it places the burden of improvement solely on the individual, ignoring the larger context in which they work. Even the most motivated and talented individuals will struggle to perform at their best in a system that is poorly designed, inefficient, or dysfunctional.

Furthermore, coaching is an egregious and seductive distraction from addressing systemic issues. Rather than focusing on fixing the root cause of poor performance, organisations invest in coaching as a band-aid solution. This not only wastes time and resources but can also be demoralising for employees who may feel that their performance is being unfairly blamed for systemic problems.

Another issue with coaching individuals is that it can lead to a narrow focus on individual goals and performance metrics, rather than the larger goals and mission of the organisation. This can result in a lack of alignment and coordination between team members, ultimately leading to decreased overall performance.

In contrast, a focus on improving the system can have a much more significant impact on individual performance. By improving processes, optimising resources, and fostering a positive and supportive culture, organisations create an environment where individuals can thrive. This approach can lead to not only improved individual performance but also increased innovation, collaboration, and overall organisational success.

In conclusion, coaching individuals is a total waste of time and effort when the system accounts for 95% of any individual’s performance. Rather than focusing on coaching , organisations may choose to prioritise the larger context within which they operate. By doing so, they create an environment where individuals thrive and ultimately achieve greater success.

The Certainty of Certifications: Why They’re Much More Harmful Than Helpful

Certifications can be seen as a quick fix for professional success. They offer a way for experts to show off their skills and knowledge in a particular area. However, the dark side of certifications is that they are often surface-level and bear no relation to an individual’s capabilities.

One of the most outrageous examples of this is with Agile and Scrum certifications. Many courses will certify you after just a few days of training, which is simply not enough time to truly grasp the intricacies of these methodologies. Scrum, in particular, demands a deep comprehension of team dynamics, communication, and the capability to adapt to change. These abilities can’t be acquired in a two-day course or even in two weeks, two months, or two years.

The problem is exacerbated by the patent naivety of busy managers who believe that certification is equivalent to competence. They see a certificate on a CV and assume that the individual has a profound understanding of the subject matter. This assumption is utterly false and can lead to expensive mistakes and project failures.

The complete inadequacy of classroom learning is also a significant issue. While there is value in conventional learning, it’s entirely insufficient to prepare individuals for the difficulties of the real world. Classroom learning typically focuses on theory, while real-world circumstances are way more complex and require a more profound understanding of the subject matter, especially in matters like organisational culture and interpersonal relationships.

In conclusion, certifications are essentially worthless at best and deeply harmful at worst. They create a false sense of security and don’t genuinely measure an individual’s abilities. It’s crucial to remember that certifications are in no way a substitute for experience and extensive knowledge.

The Dangers of Projecting Needs onto Others

Projecting needs onto other people without evidence or dialogue can be a dangerous and problematic behavior that can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and even harm. Assuming that we know what other people need can reflect a lack of empathy, self-centeredness, and a belief in our own superior knowledge or intuition.

When we project our own needs onto others, we may be blind to their individual experiences, perspectives, and preferences. We may overlook their unique circumstances, cultural background, or personality traits that can shape their needs. Moreover, by stating unequivocally what other people need, we may come across as arrogant, dismissive, or manipulative, and erode trust and rapport.

To avoid projecting needs, we might choose to practice active listening, empathy, and curiosity. Instead of blithely asserting that we know what others need, we can ask open-ended questions, seek clarification, and pay attention to nonverbal cues. By doing so, we can gain a better understanding of their needs and show that we value them and their feelings.

Ultimately, projecting needs onto other people can be a barrier to effective communication, mutual respect, and collaboration. By acknowledging our own biases, limitations, and uncertainties, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate environment where people feel seen, heard, and appreciated.


Dance With the Waves of Change For the Rhythm of GROWth is Within Them

The GROW model is a popular framework for coaching and goal setting that has been widely used in various fields such as business, sports, and personal development. The acronym GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. The model helps to structure the coaching process and guide the coach and the coachee (the person being coached) through a series of steps that lead to the achievement of specific and measurable goals.

The first step in the GROW model is setting the Goal. This involves the coachee identifying and clearly defining their desired outcome or what they need to achieve. The coach and the coachee work together to ensure that the goal is clearly defined and that it aligns with the coachee’s values and purpose.

The second step is Reality, where the coach and the coachee assess the current situation and the coachee’s current skills and resources. This step involves the coachee identifying what he or she is currently doing well, as well as any potential roadblocks or challenges that may prevent the coachee from achieving their goal.

The third step is Options, where the coach and the coachee brainstorm and evaluate different strategies and actions that can help the coachee achieve the goal. The coach helps the coachee to identify and consider different options, and to evaluate the pros and cons of each one.

The final step is Will, where the coach and the coachee agree on an action plan and set specific, measurable, and time-bound actions steps. The coach helps the coachee to create an action plan that is realistic, manageable and challenging.

The GROW model is a simple yet powerful framework that can help coaches and coachees work together to achieve the coachees goals. It provides a structure that can be used in a variety of coaching situations and provides a common language for the coach and the coachee to use. The coach can use the model to help the coachee to clarify their goals, assess their current situation, evaluate different options, and create an action plan that will lead to the achievement of their desired outcomes.

Quintessential Morons

Quintessential morons are not those folks with a shortfall in intellect, but those folks with a shortfall in awareness of the limitations and boundaries of their personal world view.

The latter group are not open to changing themselves because they remain unaware of the need for, and benefits to themselves and others of, personal change.

The world is stuffed full of quintessential morons.

Chances are, you’re one too.

– Bob

Highlight Problems, Avoid Solutions

It’s wayyy easier to provide solutions than to help folks find their own solutions. What are the consequences of this observation?

  • For consultants, trainers, pseudo-coaches and others whose income depends on selling “solutions”?
  • For folks seeking long-term, permanent solutions to their problems?
  • For folks who choose to hire consultants or other experts to solve their problems for them?
  • For folks habituated to delegating the finding of solutions to their problems to others?

Voltaire asks us a rhetorical question:

“Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?”

~ Voltaire

I’ll not be offering any solutions to this conundrum. I am available help you along the path of finding your own.Do get in touch!

#IANAC (I am not a consultant).

– Bob

Further Reading

Rother, M. (2010). Toyota Kata: Managing People For Continuous Improvement And Superior Results. Mcgraw-Hill.
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 16 Jun 2022].

The software crisis will NEVER be over unless and until senior management comes to understand software development, and what makes it highly effective (in those extremely rare cases where it IS highly effective).

What will enable that understanding? Not the promotion into senior positions of folks with front-line experience (most have no experience of effective practices).

Coaching/education might do it – when the senior folks seek it out and engage with it themselves.

I believe exemplars can help (which is one of the reasons I wrote Quintessence).

The most promising way forward is normative learning, especially when guided by capable facilitators. How many senior folks are ever likely to go to the gemba and see what’s REALLY effective?

Alternative: Dispense with management entirely. Also highly unlikely, but beginning to gain some traction as an idea. Cf Reinvention Organizations (Laloux 2014), etc.. This approach doesn’t actually address the issue of folks understanding what effective software development looks like, though.

Further Reading

Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. Nelson Parker.


The Organisational Psychotherapy Standup

Daily stand-ups rapidly become tedious to the point of irrelevance. They rarely address core issues, participants generally preferring to gloss over issues so they can get back to “the real work”, e.g. coding, as soon as possible each morning.

Here’s how the Scrum Institute describes the Daily Scrum (Standup):

The Daily Scrum Meeting is a maximum of 15 minutes. These meetings take place every working day at the same time in the same place.

It’s best to conduct Daily Scrum Meetings with direct access to the Sprint Backlog and Sprint Burndown Chart. So the Scrum Team can direct the Daily Scrum Meeting based on the facts and progress which are visible to everyone in the team.

Daily Scrum Meeting aims to support the self-organization of the Scrum Team and identify impediments systematically.

All members of the Scrum Team, the Scrum Master and the Scrum Product Owner need to join Daily Scrums. Other stakeholders can also join these meetings, but only as a view-only audience.

Daily Scrum Meetings are structured in the following way. Every member of the Scrum Team answers three questions.

Question #1: What activities have I performed since the last Daily Scrum Meeting?

Question #2: What activities am I planning to perform until the next Daily Scrum Meeting? What is my action plan?

Question #3: Did I encounter or am I expecting any impediment which may slow down or block the progress of my work?


Q: What are the biggest impediments to a team’s progress?

A: The collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation as a whole (and, marginally, of the team itself).

How often are these impediments discussed or even surfaced at the Daily Scrum/standup? Almost never. Or never.

How much do they impact the progress of the team? Lots. Really, lots.

So, for Question #3 (above), who’s going to raise the organisation’s – and team’s – collective assumptions and beliefs impeding or blocking the team’s progress? And who’s going to address these impediments/blockers on behalf of the team?

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R. W. (2018). Hearts over Diamonds: Serving Business and Society Through Organisational Psychotherapy. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub)

Marshall, R. W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing and Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub)

Marshall, R. W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Highly Effective Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub)


Let’s take a look at one (of many) nuanced distinctions between coaching and Organisational Psychotherapy: techniques.


Many coaches will suggest techniques to their coachees, techniques to make their lives easier, and to tackle certain challenges. For example, software coaches might hear their coachees remark that code quality could be better, and invite their coachees to look at TDD as a technique to help the coachees improve it. Or coachees might complain that their code is too difficult to change, and the coach might suggest looking at the idea of connascence, and the techniques derived from that.

Contrarywise, organisational psychotherapists will typically refrain from making suggestions, in this case regarding techniques. Instead, they are likely to ask open, Socratic-style questions inviting reflection, such as: “Are there known techniques techniques that might help improve code quality?” and “Are there ideas that might help with making your code more amenable to change?”

Clean Language formulations of such questions may help further:

Client: “We suspect we have some issues with our code quality.”
Therapist: “What kind of issues are those issues?” …conversation continues…

(Note: The above are rather contrived Organisational Psychotherapy examples, as such topics seem relatively unlikely in the context of Organisational Psychotherapy).


Of course, Clean Language and Socratic questions are not the sole domain of the Organisational Psychotherapist. Both coaches and Organisational Psychotherapists may move on a continuum from leading questions to open questions, and back. The distinction I’m trying to illustrate here is that coaches may tend towards leading questions, therapists toward open ones.

And rigid adherence to purely open (Socratic) questions may rankle with clients and coachees, who may just want a straightforward answer, from time to time. One skill of the therapist and coach both, is to be able to resolve this kind of situation to the best satisfaction of the client.

– Bob

Further Reading

Sutton, J. (2020). Socratic Questioning in Psychology: Examples and Techniques. [online] Available at:

The Rightshifting Cause

[Here’s a post that’s been languishing in my “Drafts” folders for ten years now. It dates back to the time when I was just beginning to make my way into Organisational Psychotherapy, as a therapist. Not that I knew it then…]

The Agile Coaching Agenda

I used to to introduce myself to people as an Agile coach. Not anymore. Nowadays, I don’t really know what to introduce myself as. Here’s why.

The term ‘coaching’ is overloaded. There’s sports coaching, agile coaching, life coaching, business coaching and many others. All of them have things in common, but they’re not the same. As well as coaching, there’s mentoring, consulting, advising and whatnot. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably and sometimes they seem to overlap. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s had trouble differentiating between them.

Lately I’ve studied coaching with Results Coaching Systems. They have a very strict definition for coaching, which says coaching does not have an agenda. In coaching, according to their definition, the goals are always set by the person being coached. I’ve grown to like their definition of coaching.

However, this does raise a conflict. How can anyone (myself included) call themselves an agile coach if coaching shouldn’t have an agenda? Agile is an agenda. Agile is a solution that I – or my clients – are proposing. And coaching shouldn’t have an agenda. Calling anyone an agile coach actually starts to sound very contradictory if you see coaching as not having an agenda.

So I’ve started introducing myself as a software development coach. That’s more honest. Right? Well…

John Seddon has recently thrown more fuel into my existential fire with his talks. John is the father of Vanguard, a systems thinking approach for service organizations. One of his key points is that if the organization as a whole is doing the wrong things the significance of the method(s) used in its software development efforts is very small. He says “Agile is about doing the wrong things faster”. And I think I’m sure he has a point.

The fact that Agile revolves so much around software development has started to feel like a constraint. Like a sub-optimization. I’ve had this feeling for quite a while, but John seems to have reinforced it. This is also a discussion that has been on going in the Agile community for quite a while.

I would like to see myself as someone who looks at the whole. The whole organisation. The whole business. And of that whole, software development is only a small – mostly inconsequential – part. I want to help organizations do the right things with the right methods. Focusing on software development is not enough.

Thanks to John, even ‘software development coach’ feels weird. So what am I suppose to call myself now?

[Spoiler: As you may have noticed, I’ve come to describe myself as an Organisational Psychotherapist.]

– Bob

%d bloggers like this: