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Client Case Studies

Taking a systemic approach to implementing coaching
Large Public Sector Organisation

Background & Context

Coaching had become an integral part of the development of the individual and the whole organisation. Coaching had grown organically in the organisation and this was demonstrated by:

• A significant percentage of senior managers across the organisation engaging in a coaching contract with either external or internal coaches
• The linking of coaching to strategic leadership development programmes
• The design and delivery of coaching training for managers to support career planning and gap management
• The design and delivery of a programme to build internal capability in coaching

This activity produced a groundswell of interest in, and requests for coaching which the organisation was unable to be able to rise to, given resources and internal capability. Coaching assignments were sporadic, largely uncontrolled and without focus. External coaches were being used in an unregulated way and with little attention being paid to any form of quality control, measurement of professional competence, and understanding of the organisation's operating environment, links to professional coaching bodies or adherence to any code of ethics.

It became apparent that, a different approach was necessary to embed coaching into the culture of the organisation and to use it as a process for supporting sustainable change.

Our involvement

We were invited to review the growth of coaching in the organisation, how it was being applied, how the outcomes were being measured and what needed to be done to ensure return on investment.

We concluded that it would be prudent at this time to move to a more systemic approach to developing a coaching culture which:

• linked coaching to business drivers
• incorporated coaching training into management development provision
• aligned all coach training across the organisation
• developed a coaching capability framework which linked coachee needs to coach competence
• developed internal capability in coaching (accredit and licence internal coaches)
• developed internal capability to delivery coach training (accredit and licence internal coach trainers)
• developed an external coach screening process
• developed an effective process for evaluating the outcomes of coaching.

In light of this we undertook, the design and implementation of the following components of the organisation’s coaching strategy:

• The Coaching Champion
The HR Director took on the role of Coaching Champion on the Board of Executives. This role is designed to keep coaching on the business agenda and to ensure that coaching stays focussed on business drivers.

• The Coaching Value Chain
The development and implementation of the coaching value chain was intended to ensure that coaching is the appropriate development intervention and that all parties to the coaching contract are fully aware of their roles, responsibilities and agreed outcomes for the work.

• External coach selection
A rigorous process was developed and implemented to quality assure the external coaches who are offered coaching assignments in the organisation.

The process not only quality assures the external coaches but also regulates how they are used, how much they are paid and requires that they submit details of the professional association they are part of, the Code of Ethics they work to, details of their supervision arrangements and information on their professional indemnity insurance.

• Internal coach selection
A process for the selection of internal coaches was developed and implemented.

• Coaching supervision for internal coaches
A process for supervision of internal coaches was developed and implemented.

• Code of ethics for internal coaches
We recognised that the role of the Internal Coach is a unique one which raises challenges not faced by external coaches. In this context we developed a Code of Ethics for internal coaches which was adopted by the organisation.

The code of ethics covers 4 key areas:
• Competence
• Context
• Boundary Management
• Integrity
• Professionalism

• The development of a complaints procedure
Given that there was a need for an Ethics Code, it followed naturally that there had to be a procedure for dealing with ethics charges against internal coaches. This procedure was designed to protect the coach, the coachee, organisation and the integrity of the coaching process.

The procedure is entirely separate to any disciplinary or grievance procedure currently in place.

The procedure has several stages:

• Initiating the complaint
• Assessing the allegation
• Investigating the allegation
• Adjudication
• Appeals

The reason the procedure has all of these stages is to allow for a full and fair process in dealing with complaints. It is designed to ensure that frivolous claims cannot be brought against coaches and that where there has been a breach of ethics that both parties have full opportunity to resolve the issue with the help of a third party.

• The design of an evaluation process
Evaluation of initiatives such as the implementation of coaching takes time, commitment and expertise and to be worthwhile we asked the following questions:

• What information do the stakeholders want to know?
• What are the objectives in evaluating coaching initiatives?
• How will the evaluation results be used?

We looked back at the original objectives in introducing the coaching initiative and use these to guide the objectives for evaluation. For example:

• Have the performance gaps been bridged?
• Have the business needs been fulfilled

The next step in the evaluation process was to determine the priority areas in light of the available resources. The following are examples of aspects we considered:

• What are the most important things for the organisation to know about the coaching initiative?
• What level of support is available from stakeholders for evaluation?
• How much is the organisation prepared to spend (resources, time etc.,) on evaluation activities?
• Does the organisation have the internal capability and expertise to undertake the evaluation activities?
• What level of evaluation is the organisation committed to measuring (e.g. Kirkpatrick's model)

Once these questions were answered we set about designing the evaluation process.


We completed this project in 2007, at which time it was considered by the organisation and the professional coaching bodies as ground breaking work. Our client has presented at European Coaching Conferences on the approach they took with our guidance and have supported other public sector organisations in the development of a systemic approach to coaching.

Since completing this project we have been commissioned by seven organisations to do similar work.

Our Director, Sandra Wilson’s, work on the ethical dilemmas facing internal coaches is considered seminal and was first published in “Coaching at Work” in 2007.


The International Centre for Business Coaching
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KY16 9HN.

07770 800 179