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3 ways water utilities can leverage coaching - Part 3

Updated: May 24, 2021

With a $1B revenue in the European sector, and a global growth of 12% p.a., the coaching industry is booming (1). Yet adoption in the water sector is still low. Coaching is utilities' new ally to accelerate innovation commercialisation and adoption.

The Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT) is allocating £200 million of UK customers' money to an annual collectively-funded innovation competition running the span of 2020-2025. This begs the consideration of business practices with boosting RedBull-like effect - from other countries, sectors or professions. Among other things, coaching can help teams adopt an innovation culture, build the pipeline of innovation to support business transformation, and empower teams to better deliver on outcomes.

This last blog post forms part of a series highlighting 3 ways for you to implement coaching in the context your innovation management with practical illustrations of adoption pathways.

This third and last post looks into the role of coaching as part of Innovation Acceleration.

Deliver the regulatory outcomes faster

OFWAT, the water regulator expects utilities’ strategy to focus on the delivery of better long-term value to household and non-household customers and this is reflected in each water company strategy. In fact, I noticed that most UK water utilities have more than 10 strategic objectives each. Guess how many strategic objective your staff actually remembers? Research shows that only 28% of executives and middle managers responsible for executing strategy are able to list three of their company’s strategic priorities (MIT) and things get worse as you move down the management ladder.

Thankfully, Objective Key Results (OKRs) is a methodology to ensure everyone is aligned to your business goals, accountable and working collaboratively to drive business resilience and results, at speed.

An OKR coach provides kick off and follow-on support to encourage:

  • The desired OKR team behaviours are adopted faster.

  • The optimal adoption of the OKR approach.

  • Continuous improvement through practice from quarter to quarter.

62.4% of individuals coached develop a more intelligent goal-setting approach

Source: ICF

How to adopt? There is a clear driver for utilities managers to practice the OKR approach with the support of a coach. Less obvious is how this could extend to working with suppliers?

Many SMEs that I coach are either super organised, as they already work in another industry sector, or need to professionalise their management practices. If they are in the technology arena, they have usually heard of OKRs.

They typically acquire an OKR digital solution, like Jira with an OKR dashboard, and start practicing, but usually struggle to design good objectives and results and to regularly practice the methodology in its optimal format and cadence. OKR coaching plays a vital role in ensuring the expected habits are embedded faster into “business as usual”.

By providing OKR coaching to growing SMEs alongside a digital tool to practice, utilities could ensure SMEs move out of the Lab into the supply chain constellation well equipped at an organisational level to deliver on the business and regulatory outcomes. Finally, set up properly with a coach, some OKR digital tools are perfectly capable of looping in external partners so team alignment can be seamless.

Before wrapping up, i wanted to highlight that working in business transformation requires changing business habits so it is a specific kind of coaching. It takes such a coach approximately 3 months for the practice to be impactful and the intervention has to be planned with a sponsor, scheduled and cadenced. Impact measurement needs to be carefully tailored.

Following the example of many corporates around the world, water companies have an opportunity to embrace coaching more holistically and to accelerate innovation commercialisation and adoption by optimising the alignment of teams across the entire business, the innovation lab and the water supply chain.

Virginie Vinel Kolovos MCIM

Business Transformation Coach | OKR coach CIM and EMCC Member

All rights reserved, November 2020

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