As a coach, my role is to help people who seek services to create actionable goals and/or tasks that have been agreed by both coach and coachee. In this collaborative relationship, having clarity and accountability is key to ensure that real noticeable progress is being made. Both coach and coachee must be able to see measurable results so that the relationship continues to flourish. Here is how I approach a new coaching engagement…

Sign a Coaching Contract

When working with organizations, a Statement Of Work (SOW) is created that describes key information like start/end date, description of deliverables, and a pricing rate. Prior to the SOW, I often create a vision document with a quote to help craft the SOW. This contract is mandatory when working with a company. You can’t just show up and start working, you must have something in place to get a final signoff and also to ensure payment.

When it comes to coaching an individual, although it’s tempting to just start coaching, the same formality must be in place to ensure a healthy start to the relationship. Although the contact can be simple, it must still cover the same as an SOW (start/end date, description of deliverables, and a rate). With a signed contract, suddenly the journey is official and both sides must start driving towards a common set goal.

Scheduling Regular Coaching Sessions

Having started as an Agile coach, I fully grasp the benefits of establishing a cadence to regularly inspect and adapt based on the results since the last session. This empirical approach will create a healthy environment to recognize success, and also accept failure to learn and adjust based on newly observed data points. This will help create new habits and make sure they stick because the results and satisfaction speak for themselves.

During these sessions, I always start with clearing the air from any distractions so that the rest of the session can stay focused. I like using a WIFLE because the acronym sounds fun and clearly states what needs to happen (What I Feel Like Expressing). Once this is out fo the way, we can review the commitments made since the last session and finally move towards setting new commitments.

These commitments are at the core of a successful coaching relationship as both parties agree on clear actionable items that can be accomplished in a short time frame. By continuously taking small measurable steps toward a goal and adjusting along the way, we continue to drive in the right direction. Don’t forget that a coach, by definition, is a carriage and we must have a starting point and a destination for the carriage and it’s occupants to have a successful journey.

Visualizing the Coaching Agreements

I have one guarantee that I always offer because I know it’s bulletproof… If you visualize your work, it stands a better chance of getting done right and faster. With that in mind, the obvious choice is to set up a Kanban board that will flow every commitment (goal, task, event, etc…) as Kanban cards.

Whether it’s a company or individual, just like the contract and regular sessions, having a simple tool like an online Kanban board makes everything clear, easy to track, and fantastic for collaboration between coaching sessions.


The Kanban board can be as simple as To Do, In Progress, Verify, and Done, but the cards will hold everything needed for both coach and coachee to know exactly what’s expected.

Kanban for Coaching

See for yourself how both coach and coachee will increase their clarity and accountability by using a Kanban board. Also, during the coaching session, I often use the Kanban board to structure the commitment checkpoint by reading the board from right to left…

  • Starting from the Verify column to discuss any card that should now move to Done, so that we can celebrate our success.
  • Next, reviewing the cards within the In Progress column to ensure that progress is being made and that any roadblock is removed.
  • Lastly, based on the WIP limits (capacity to take on new cards), we can agree to pull new cards from the To Do column into play. Be sure to inspect these new cards together to ensure that everything needed to deliver the card is on the card.

By having a contract, regular coaching sessions, and a Kanban board you will establish a consistent flow of visible results that are aligned with the original goals set in the contract. As the relationship evolves, I recommend continuing to create contracts that act as 30, 60 or 90-day plans. These plans must set clear goals that can be broken down into smaller deliverables that will become the cards on your Kanban board.

Ultimately the Kanban board will provide the right level of structure, and the adherence to regular sessions will increase the discipline. Both of these will create the ideal environment to continue on the path of continuous improvement.

What do you use Kanban for? Stay tuned for many more articles that illustrate how we and our clients leverage Kanban to deliver great results…fast and high quality.

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About the Author: Dimitri Ponomareff

Kanban Coach Dimitri Ponomareff
Dimitri Ponomareff is a Coach. Transforming organizations to deliver value faster since 2005, using Agile, Scrum/XP first, and then blending Lean and Kanban. Dimitri has the ability to relate and energize people. He is consistently recognized as a very passionate and successful change agent, with an overwhelming capacity to motivate and mobilize teams on their path to continuous improvements.

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