Home > Agile stuff, Lean, Scrum > Coaching the Good the Bad and the Ugly

Coaching the Good the Bad and the Ugly

Ever been in a project with this special guy that ‘helps’ the project succeed? This guy, ‘the Good’, that has the guts to stand up to management and tell them how things really are, bring discussions to a good end or has this unique technical skill?
On the other hand, have you ever worked with this ‘problem guy’, someone who acted negative, had little trust in others, was passive in his actions, did not take responsibility or any real interest in what was going on besides his own specific little piece of work or even was very cautious to show to others what he was really doing?… Let’s call this guy ‘the Bad’.

Imagine yourself being in a team with ‘the Good’ and ‘the Bad’ and frictions arise between the team members because things are not going as expected.
All to often what happens is that Mr Manager, lets call him ‘the Ugly’, who manages from behind his desk, starts talking to ‘the Good’ and encourages him to keep up the good work. “You are doing great, you are really helping the project move in the right direction”. The Good guy explains what he thinks is going on and complains a bit about the way the Bad guy behaves when it comes down to team work. “It’s very hard working with this guy, it is really hurting the team, he only sees problems and does not help at all when it comes down to team work”. The Bad and the Ugly quickly sit down together and come up with the solution to the problem.
The Bad and the Ugly decide that someone should speak to the Bad and tell him to change his behavior.

So, the Ugly goes talk to the Bad. “So, what is going on here…? why are you acting in this non constructive way?… It’s time for you to change, your lack of team spirit is causing problems in the project… I want you to change your behavior!, I want you to listen to the Good and work with him”.

This kind of Management behavior is often not the best approach from a long term perspective.
First of all the Bad is by-passed by talking only to the Good. This actually enforces the behavior of the Bad because he feels not involved and feels that anything he has to say does not matter anyways. Secondly the Ugly and the Good are jumping to conclusions and coming up with a counter measure without really grasping the situation and looking for root causes. It can be an solution but probably not the solution for the root cause of the problem. Next to that, he will not really support the countermeasure and everything is setup to stay the same again.
The third and biggest issue in this approach is that there is minimal learning involved and no real progress as the root cause is probably not tackled. The Good and the Bad do not learn much from this, so that in the future they could handle these situation better or prevent them from happening in the first place.

A different type of Manager realizes that real progress is to be found in coaching the team to learn how to deal with these kind of challenges. He realizes that most often it’s not the people who are causing the problems, but the systems in which they must work.
This Lean manager would talk to the team as a whole and make the team the owner of the issue in the long run. He would dig into the situation and see first hand what is going on at the Gemba to really understand the background and the problems. He would discuss with the team what would be appropriate goals to achieve so they could identify the gap between the current state and desired future state. Do the necessary analysis to find the root cause(s) of the issues. Guide the team to explore opportunities and propose a number of countermeasures to get team alignment and support.
He would stimulate team members to stand up and become the owner of improvement actions and ‘pull authority’ to take the team forward in becoming a constantly improving team that works thoroughly using the PDCA cycle.

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