What are coaching cards and how are they used?

Joe Mikes, Life Cycle Engineering

Coaching cards are a critical component of a comprehensive change management program. They are used to make sure that the change that an organization has put in place is actually working as planned. Using coaching cards creates a non-threatening opportunity to meet with those people living with the change in their daily lives and help them to be successful. Coaching cards were designed by project managers who had seen multiple, big organizational changes fade after a few weeks or months. Coaching cards alone will not guarantee a perfect change, but they are an essential part of the change after installation and training are over and new behaviors are expected. Long-term sustainability can be managed with a cyclical approach to using the coaching cards and solving the issues discovered from the last round of cards.

Never underestimate the importance of keeping the leadership engaged while driving new behaviors and breaking down any barriers that are being experienced as new processes take hold. Coaching cards provide the right reason to engage employees while providing invaluable data regarding how the organization really works. Leaders should randomly go out and conduct coaching cards themselves and see what they learn about the change at hand.

Coaching cards analyze three perspectives of a position: Activities, Reports & Documents, and Results per position, not per person. The intent of the coaching card is to reveal the hardships and successes brought on by changing toward the new desired norm. It is typical that more than 80 percent of the hardships identified will be issues for the leaders to resolve; less than 20 percent will be because the employees are resisting the change. By designing the cards to reflect positions vs. individuals, the interview is helpful for the employee instead of being intimidating. At one of the earliest implementations of the coaching card process, the employees were given the coaching cards one day before the leaders came around to ask the questions. The employees were relieved to read the questions and see the expectations written in such a concise manner. The most common reaction was: “This is great. Now I finally understand exactly what I am supposed to do and what items are the most important for me to focus on.”

By using the coaching card process, all of the new changes in your organization can be observed in action. Any deviation from the intended outcome will be identified and managed. Without this process in place, people could continue using old programs or processes without being detected and erode the overall success. These cards provide trustworthy data and reduce the subjective decisions regarding how well the implementation is being accepted. No group will be able to under-deliver without the local managers knowing about the performance issues in advance. 

Here’s an example of how the process works. An organization was trying to change the maintenance craftsperson position. The craftsperson reported that he was giving written feedback about how each work order was actually completed but the people who were supposed to document those notes were not doing their part. This was confirmed when the work order had to be executed again and the feedback that was previously provided was not evident on the next round of work orders. From that comment on the coaching card, the leadership group took action. The business process for completing work orders was reviewed to determine where the breakdown was occurring and which positions in the process had a role. The people who worked in these other positions were called together to understand their hurdles in getting the process to work and plans were made to rework the whole business process. Over and over again, issues were documented on the coaching cards and the leadership facilitated solutions. This is the power of the information resulting from the coaching cards. No implementation should fail if leaders will listen to and act on the results of the cards. Dozens of issues usually pop up after a big organizational change. A team of leaders should review summarized results and prioritize which issues to tackle first: Then they should act on the plans, followed by another round of coaching cards to measure progress.

The PDF document found below is a sample of a coaching card for a maintenance planner/scheduler. The questions represent all of the aspects of the change this organization was going through to complete their program. This list does not represent every single task this position needs to perform, but it includes everything that the people in this position need to do to fulfill this change. The type of change is not important. It doesn’t matter if the organization is changing their maintenance process or if they are implementing new accounting software or even merging two companies together. Any significant change that requires employees to do things differently is a perfect time to utilize coaching cards to ensure the change is embedded in your culture and has become the new norm.

This article appeared in the May edition of Life Cycle Engineering’s RxToday newsletter.

Download Sample Coaching Card (PDF)

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About the Author

Joe Mikes, CMRP, is a senior consultant at Life Cycle Engineering. Joe has helped dozens of organizations improve their performance while producing their goods safely. You can contact Joe at Read More