|The Real Difference in
Start with "context" and "process"
demarcation is the requirement of context for a coach. Generally
speaking if a coach requires context (asks the client for more
information), they are engaged in single loop learning or the
performance against a standard without a shift in governing variables.
I call it problem solving.
If process is involved, then the coach is not
concerned with context but the "way" or manner in which the person is
arriving at conclusions. [
Inference ] This "way" or "process" is independent yet
interrelated with context, however learning through a process is different
than learning through a context.
In context, we must align with the appropriate
understanding of it in order to "interject" and be helpful in most
cases (remaining in context). This produces the "what" that is in question. This
process indeed can be seen as a process by those who use context as
the driver, however, the difference usually lies (between single and
double loop learning) in the shift of the underlying values or
In regards to process, we enable the
functioning of decision-making through "how" we arrive at conclusions.
Most of the time, this will require a shift in the underlying values
or governing variables as the "current" modus operandi, or process we
use for drawing conclusions is governed by a set of underlying values
or variables (mental models). Therefore, the reason we're coming up with the set
of issues is due to these governing variables being out of alignment
or insufficient in terms of complexity to resolve the "problem"
created at this level. Yet, how we make decisions is separate
from the context. Merely asking how to do something doesn't
necessarily cause us to arrive at the how of the process.
Memory & Learning
In the above discussion, context requires
memory and process requires learning, or unmemorizing. If I
might be so bold as to suggest that to the extent that memory plays a
role, it blocks the movement from the current "problem state" to the
future "solution" state due to its hold on the governing variables
that exist to cause the problem state--in memory.
[As a side note, there is never arrival as
each solution state sets in motion the creation of additional problem
states. Often these are much more complex than the previous
problem states which were satisfied by the current governing
So, let me finish to the point
As I think about coaching and which direction
I want to move towards, I gravitate towards process, as it allows me
to focus on something that applies across disciplines, rather than
trying to "memorize" all the things I need to know to function
effectively in context. E.G. "how do I coach a person who....
I do believe both are necessary as you will
get distinct advantages from either. My tendency is to feel that
contextual coaching requires a degree of expertise and experience
within the context at a variety of complex levels. The closer
the match and alignment between what the client wants and needs and
what the coach has to offer is critical in my view and
thus will constitute the effectiveness of the arrangement. [This
postulate is also consistent with developmental stage theory as well]
On the other hand, process expertise will
apply to a broader set of domains and in some cases, be applicable to
"context" driven sets of problem states. Yet, substituting
process work when contextual work is required within a set of
governing variables will be less effective. [Requirements of skill
where no shift in underlying variables is required, such as how to
change a "lathe" position.]
The "real" issue
becomes--what is the cause of the problem state. It could be
context or process and sometimes both. A contextual coach will fail most of the
time to identify the "cause" of the problem if it is outside of
context because of the failure to understand precisely the process
that one uses to arrive at decisions.
In some cases, I speculate that process work
will require more integration, flexibility and systems knowledge,
except of course when the context is integration, flexibility and
systems knowledge--an interesting paradox to be sure!