Using coaching to avoid change- a case study

The Boston based AI division of an Nasdaq traded company acquired a start up based in Paris and Tel Aviv. Due to faulty due diligence, the decision to retain the founders of the start up as joint CTO’s (chief technology officers) was abandoned and they were asked to leave the company. As a result, a massive rupture of trust occurred between Boston HQ and the brain power in France and Tel Aviv.

Marvin Duvalier was hired to integrate the acquired start up into HQ. Marvin had perfect credentials: he had vast experience in M&A activity, he spoke English and French as native languages, his wife is Israeli so he had an amazing  understanding of Hebrew, although he could not speak well. He also had vast domain expertise in AI.

Two months after he was hired, Boston acquired another start up in Moscow, which had competed with the French Israeli start up. Marvin was tasked with “putting this all together into one working unit”.

Six months into his role, Marvin is seen as a “failure”. In his initial performance review, he was told that he was seen as untrustworthy, manipulative and a professional bull-shitter, trying to please all of the people all of the time.

Marvin was asked to hire a coach, to hone his trust building skills. Marvin hired a coach as requested, and immediately started looking for a job, which he found after two months.

“Those fuckers in HQ make decisions based on excel sheets, faulty due diligence, and revenue scenarios crunched out by hacks, and then assign me a coach!”, he told the recruiter who found him his next job.

The Head of Business Development who recommended these failed  acquisitions and the CEO of the AI unit, are very close friends from their days in university. Three years down the road, the AI Boston based  Business Unit’s entire management team was replaced. Moscow was closed down; the French team could not be downsized due to labour law and drained huge financial resources. In Tel Aviv’s hot high tech market, the company got a bad name and talent walked out. It was a veritable disaster, which the coach did not prevent.

Coaching is often used to frame individuals as “guilty” of individual incompetence,  thus evading focusing attention on the real  system problems. 











Share Button

9 thoughts on “Using coaching to avoid change- a case study

  1. Great case study, Allon. I assume it is mostly true, based on what you have seen in your work.

    Finding someone to blame, and then trying to “fix” him or her, is the easy way out when the real root causes of dysfunction lie elsewhere and are much harder to deal with.

  2. Coaching is just another “flavor of the month” glommed onto by people looking for quick fixes to things for which there is no quick fix.

  3. Even when coaching is used simply as a development tool for all (not targeting failed performance) it is inherently non-systemic in it’s nature (like individual therapy or like trying to chnage a system one person at a time).

  4. You are right that coaching isn’t systemic but individuals are. If one person in the system begins to change all begins to change around them. The changes can take many forms, but then again I don’t believe in change management.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.