A critical component of our Green Belt and Black Belt certification program are weekly coaching calls. We’ve learned that staying in close contact with our candidates is vital to their success.
We’ve also learned that four, specific, questions asked at the right time and with the right intention are extremely value added. Now, for those who practice Scientific Thinking these questions will look familiar.
Question 1: What’s your next step?
Our coaching calls happen weekly so this “what’s your next step” question always focuses on the next 5 business days. These next steps obviously vary depending on where the candidate is in the program. For some, their next step may be, “Watch 45 minutes of video each day between 3:00 PM and 3:45 PM.”
For others who are actively working on their project it may be, “Complete FMEA with my team by the end of business on Friday and begin to act on countermeasures.”
Question 2: What do you think is going to happen?
Once the candidate has identified their next steps we always ask them to make a prediction on what is going to happen. In the “video watching” example above this statement may go like this, “I think I’ll be able to pull it off but Wednesday may be harder since our VP is visiting and we have some unplanned meetings.”
At this point… the current coaching call is complete after any questions are answered or advice from the Gemba Academy coach is offered.
We then fast forward to the next coaching call where we continue with two more questions.
Question 3: What actually happened?
The candidate shares what actually happened. The video watcher will explain what they accomplished and how many videos were watched. The FMEA candidate will usually share their FMEA with their coach walking them through the process they followed. And, obviously, any questions the candidate has are answered here and the Gemba Academy coach will offer suggestions and advice as needed.
Question 4: What did you learn?
Finally, the candidate will summarize what they learned. First, they always reflect on what they learned from a “process” perspective. For example, they might comment that, “I learned 45 minutes is perfect for all days but Friday where I’m able to do a full hour.” And the FMEA person might comment, “I learned an FMEA takes far more time than I realized and that it can really grow when you really dig into the potential failure modes.”
The candidate will then reflect on what they learned from an academic or results perspective.
Documenting these Questions
And while walking through all of these questions is extremely value added… I believe the primary reason this process works is because the candidate documents all of these questions and their answers in a virtual project management software.
One Black Belt candidate recently commented that the reason they love this process is because it feels like a form of journaling. They also see how much progress they are making by skimming through previous question loops.
Give it a Shot
So, if you ever find yourself coaching folks on a regular basis give these 4 questions a shot. I even use variations of this with my children at home. It works just as well as it does at work. There is something magical about breaking things down into smaller steps.