Adopting technical coaching in your organisation

Transformation, through technical coaching can only happen when people are willing to change.

In this latest instalment of the Technical Coaching track, José Enrique Rodríguez Huerta, MD and Technical Coach in Codurance Spain, addresses how to facilitate the transformation process within your company. 

Building on the previous sessions which covered feedback, culture and learning in a technical team, in this session, José looks at how to make your project a success and why some projects fail.


What is the common approach to technical coaching?

Technical coaching typically focuses on empowering employees, enhancing their work methods, and improving their performance.  Emphasis is placed on optimising processes and practices or increasing the quality of deliverables.

When we invest in our staff and create a culture of learning, they feel valued and more motivated.  And in expanding their knowledge, they create better output and products.  This in turn leads to better staff retention.

The most common approach to addressing these issues are training or coaching-based solutions. A technical coach is often hired for a few hours or days to pair with the team, explain best practices, or perhaps provide specific training in various methods such as TDD or DDD.

Up to this point, the solution seems simple and cost-effective, involving only small training sessions for the teams, but...

Why does it go wrong?

José explains that, while it may seem that routine training and coaching sessions offer a straightforward solution to these problems, a number of potential drawbacks can emerge, depending on the organisation's specific circumstances:

  • Upskilling and delivery are often conflicting goals; to improve your skills you will have to reduce your output. Delivery is about increasing production, so often the technical coach does not have time to focus on training people.
  • Improving team skills and achieving tangible results requires a significant investment in time, this can be hard to manage when expectations are high and people are time poor.
  • Technical coaching results come from embedding team skills.  Constantly restarting processes due to changes in the organisation reset the training clock with each new team member, staff transfer or person leaving the company.
  • Training provides the tools to solve problems but it's not possible to cover every scenario.  People often need further help and support to apply what they have learnt when they face real life situations. 

These issues are caused by a number of different factors, all of which can work against you when trying to implement change.  

When you first start on the process of transformation, it's easy to over look them, but in the end, they have to be addressed if you want your transformation to be a success.

  • Sense of Urgency: Sometimes, teams just don't see the importance of the transformation.  A good starting point can be to create a business case for change that demonstrates how the project will address the issues faced by the company.
  • Inspiring Vision:  People engage better with projects, such as transformation, when they understand why they doing it.  Communicating this clearly and in the right depth will help bring people on board.
  • Guiding Coalition: Bringing together the right people, often from different departments or areas within an organisation, is essential.  They become the main supporters of transformation and will promote and drive forward the business vision and change initiative.
  • Short Term WinsWhen change takes a long time to become embedded, short tern wins allow the people involved to see that what they are doing is bringing results and keeps everyone engaged.
  • Ensuring Victories are Well-timed and Sustainable:  A change involves "we want to do this refactoring," while the transformation focuses on "we aim to establish a system that prevents recurrence and equips us with the skills to grow."  It's easy to declare victory too soon.
  • Anchor All Change in the Company's Culture: Transformation changes are not about making short term changes for single projects or a short period of time.  They are about changing how the company and it's people work, think and act, permanently.

How to effectively tackle this?

When you talk with people who have tried and failed with technical coaching they will tell you about all the ways that it doesn't work.

Dig a little deeper into this and you find that most fail because they went for the quick fix.

Technical coaching works.  But it only works when you create a system, something that goes beyond an individual or a specific team, and addresses the evolution of the organisation. "You need a system that enables the socialisation of behaviours, practices, and values to scale them, focusing on short and long-term plans," explains José, calling this model a Centre of Excellence for Growth.

The system is based on three central pillars:

  • Delivery. Get results by setting a strategic goal to be achieved and an delivery team that can achieve it. For example, by focusing on improving specific parts of the system you are working with.
  • Skills Training and Development. Training + Expert feedback + Hands-on Experience within the company's context and codebase.

    Breakdown of focus and effort
  • Organisational evolution to enable scaling and long term sustainability: 
    Establishing a sustainable learning system that is scalable, flexible and part of the company's DNA. This focuses on upskilling.

    learning system overview
    Establish a continuous improvement programme (CIP) that focuses on business outcomes, is scalable and accelerates innovation. This framework focuses on delivering a return on investment as quickly as possible.

    Continuous Improvement Program


Focusing on these three pillars will help you develop peoples' capabilities, achieve quick, but sustainable results (and company transformation) and increase retention by investing in your people.

In this session, José recommended focusing on a strategic business value when defining which objectives to work on.  He also pointed out that it is a never-ending process, because excellence is a journey and not a destination.

This session is part of a circuit on Technical Coaching.  You can find previous episodes in our youtube playlist.  You can also access Rodríguez's miro board or register for future events here.

Check out our related session on how to give great feedback.