How I cultivated an autonomous team culture with training and coaching systems

In a previous post I introduce a theoretical model useful for maturing towards autonomous teams. In this post I will share the story of how I cultivated an autonomous team culture.

Training versus Coaching

At first I thought training was the answer. Training in a technical field is, of course, necessary. However, training alone does not ensure success. The approach to training was also flawed.

I could not keep pace with training myself and training others. This was not sustainable. A few things I learned by taking a systems and strategy approach.

1) Instead of a trainer, the better alternative was a decentralized training support systems.

2) Instead of a train the trainer from an isolated and purely technical content approach the better alternative was a training system with a) continuous content updates from the field b) continuous trainee inputs and feedack c) continuous effectiveness inputs from a coaching system

Next, I decided to take a soft skills and client context coaching approach. This coaching included a) understanding the client’s organizational context b) alignment with department and company initiatives c) trends in technology and industry.

This context specific coaching was important to understand cyclical patterns, pain points, problems and potential for continuous improvement and innovation. This meant that as soon as there was an incident, we would review the scenario and I would provide coaching specific to the situation.

Then, I realized that we could have a train the trainer and a coaching practice mutually inform and continuously improve the other. Since the coaching practice included continuous improvement programming, this was seated directly into the training program. Once continuous improvement and coaching was part of the teams culture, I had the leads inform the content of the training.

In this way the two systems continuously fed into and improved one another. Experiences by new trainees informed the senior team members and the senior team members informed the training content.

Because of the VUCA reality—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous and I would add Competitive, the ongoing disruptions of changes in the marketplace and technology requires a dynamic set of systems that are informed from outside, in and inside out and top to bottom and bottom to top.

I have seen where this has been confused as an either or. That is taking a top down or bottom up approach. When, in reality it must be both inside out and outside in and top to bottom and bottom to top. Or horizontal and vertical.

Business and technology is dynamic and as such, systems that are dynamic and continuously adaptive to change are essential.

Providing self paced training, on-boarding training and brown bag session styled training is not as effective as having a context driven, dynamic system that includes training, coaching and insights from feedback.

There are studies that show that applied learning is more effective than a monologue or receiving information. There are several training systems now that engage the trainee to answer questions, apply the skills immediately and receive immediate feedback. These are much more effective than content dense information downloading.

What I also found in my experience was this foundation laid a foundation for the autonomous team.