Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 205–222 | Cite as

Coaching product development teams: a conceptual foundation for empirical studies

  • Yoram ReichEmail author
  • Georg Ullmann
  • Machiel Van der Loos
  • Larry Leifer
Original Paper


Global product development teams work in ambiguously complex dynamic networks. Characterization of the distributed work environment includes many factors, including: individuals and sub-teams are geographically distributed; they belong to different organizational cultures; they operate in different time zones and within different cultural and professional-frameworks. From a communication perspective, individual team members may speak different languages and lack a common tongue. Even in these scenarios, project teams are expected to produce quality products and bring them quickly to the market. The design-to-market life cycle has shortened markedly in the past decade in many industries. How do they manage to perform effectively in the face of these many obstacles? Development team “Coaching” has emerged as a guiding force in many project-organized environments. Individuals may have arrived at the role informally, tacitly responding to the needs of teams around them, or they are professionals with formal training as we find in SAP’s “Design Team Services” group (Plattner 2007, personal comunication). We have observed that the coach provides project team members with assistance that ranges from problem solving to moral support. In spite of the growing use of coaching, there is significant confusion about the nature of the role, the attributes of good versus poor coaching, associated terminology and definitions. We report on the development of a conceptual framework for further research in the emerging domain of design engineering coaching. Our efforts began with an extensive literature review that yielded leading candidates for role terminology and the scope of the subject. With that framework in hand, we performed a field assessment (survey) in an industry-academic environment that is noted for the extreme nature of its project-based learning paradigm and deep corporate engagement, including a mixture of industry liaisons and academic advisors who are in coaching roles. We expect the combination of methods to provide common ground for further work and to better explain the issues to students and industry partners. The resulting framework consists of five main roles that design-team coaches have been observed to assume. It is anticipated that our results will help others identify new research questions and apply an expanded set of empirical methods.


Coaching Product development Teamwork Terminology Conceptual framework Literature review Knowledge management Tacit knowledge 

Supplementary material

163_2008_46_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
Online Appendices (PDF 1,114 kb)


  1. Argyris C (1977) Double loop learning in organizations. Harv Bus Rev 55(5):115–129Google Scholar
  2. Bayer H (2000) Coaching-Kompetenz: Persoenlichkeit und Fuehrungspsychologie, 2nd edn. Ernst Reinhardt Verlag, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  3. Boyle TA (2005) Improving team performance using repertory grids. Team Perform Manage 11(5/6):179–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brinkmann RD (1994) Mitarbeiter-Coaching. Der Vorgesetzte als Coach seiner Mitarbeiter (Arbeitshefte Fuehrungspsychologie, Band), 22 edn. Sauer Verlag, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryman A (2004) Qualitative research on leadership: a critical but appreciative review. Leadersh Q 15:729–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cassell C, Close P, Duberley J, Johnson P (2000) Surfacing embedded assumptions: using repertory grid methodology to facilitate organizational change. Eur J Work Organ Psychol 9(4):561–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carrillo A, Carrizosa K, Leifer L (2003) Design team coaches. In: Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education annual conference and expositionGoogle Scholar
  8. Cramton CD (2001) The mutual knowledge problem and its consequences for dispersed collaboration. Organ Sci 12(3):346–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Creswell JW (2002) Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches, 2nd edn. Sage, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  10. Denison DR, Hooijberg R, Quinn RE (1995) Paradox and performance: toward a theory of behavioral complexity in managerial leadership. Organ Sci 6(5):524–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeRue DS, Morgeson FP (2005) Developing taxonomy of team leadership behavior in self-managing teams. Poster session presented at the 20th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Los Angeles, CAGoogle Scholar
  12. Duarte DL, Snyder NT (2006) Mastering virtual teams, 3rd edn. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  13. Eodice M (2000) A theory of requirements definition in engineering design. PhD Thesis, Stanford University, 163 pGoogle Scholar
  14. Eriz O, Leifer L (2003) Facilitating product design knowledge acquisition: interaction between the expert and the team. Int J Eng Educ 19(1):142–152Google Scholar
  15. Furst SA, Reeves M, Rosen B, Blackburn RS (2004) Managing the life cycle of virtual teams. Acad Manage Exec 18(2):6–20Google Scholar
  16. Gaines BR, Shaw MLG (1996) WebGrid: knowledge modeling and inference through the World Wide Web. In: Gaines BR, Musen M (eds) Proceedings of the tenth knowledge acquisition for knowledge-based systems workshop, Banff, pp 65-1–65-14Google Scholar
  17. Geva U, Van der Loos M (2005) On coaching, forming informal team relationships formally. ME310 course coaching guidelines, Stanford University, d.schoolGoogle Scholar
  18. Gregoire MB, Arendt SW (2004) Leadership: reflections over the past 100 years. J Am Diet Assoc 104(3):395–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hackman JR, Wageman R (2005) A theory of team coaching. Acad Manage Rev 30(2):269–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hamann A, Huber JJ (1991) Coaching: Der Vorgesetzte als Trainer. Hoppenstedt-Technik-Tab.-Verlag, DarmstadtGoogle Scholar
  21. Hartley J, Benington J (2000) Co-research: a new methodology for new times. Eur J Work Organ Psychol 9(4):463–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hinds P, Pfeffer J (2003) Why organizations don′t “know what they know”: cognitive and motivational factors affecting the transfer of expertise. In: Ackerman M, Pipek V, Wulf V (eds) Sharing expertise—beyond knowledge management. The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 4–26Google Scholar
  23. House RJ, Aditya RN (1997) The social scientific study of leadership: Quo Vadis? J Manage 23(3):409–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huck H (1989) Coaching. In: Strutz H (ed) Handbuch Personalmarketing. Gabler, Wiesbaden, pp 413–420Google Scholar
  25. Ingram H, Desombre T (1999) Teamwork: comparing academic and practitioners’ perceptions. Team Perform Manage 5(1):16–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones RL, Wallace M (2005) Another bad day at the training ground: coping with ambiguity in the coaching context. Sport Educ Soc 10(1):119–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jünemann E, Lloyd B (2003) Consulting for virtual excellence: virtual teamwork as a task for consultants. Team Perform Manage 9(7–8):182–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kayworth TR, Leidner DE (2001) Leadership effectiveness in global virtual teams. J Manage Inf Syst 18(3):7–40Google Scholar
  29. Katzenbach JR, Smith DK (1993) The discipline of teams. Harv Bus Rev 71(2):111–120Google Scholar
  30. Kelly G (1955) The psychology of personal constructs, vol 1, 2. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Kim Y, Min B, Cha J (1999) The roles of R&D team leaders in Korea: a contingent approach. R&D Manage 29(2):153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Leifer LJ (1998) Design team performance: metrics and the impact of technology. In: Brown SM, Seidner C (eds) Evaluating organizational training. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  33. Lipnack J, Stamps J (1997) Virtual teams: reaching across space, time, and organizations with technology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Lloyd B (2005) Coaching, culture and leadership. Team Performance Manage 11(3–4):133–138CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  35. Looss W (1997) Unter vier Augen. Verlag Moderne Industrie, Landsberg/LechGoogle Scholar
  36. Nair A (2008) Meta-analysis of the relationship between quality management practices and firm performance—implications for quality management theory development. J Oper Manage (in press)Google Scholar
  37. Pearce CL, Sims HP Jr, Cox JF, Ball G, Schnell E, Smith KA, Trevino L (2003) Transactors, transformers and beyond: a multi-method development of a theoretical typology of leadership. J Manage Dev 22(4):273–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Perry TS (1995) How small firms innovate: designing a culture for creativity. Res Technol Manage, March–April, pp 14–17Google Scholar
  39. Rauen C (2003) Coaching, 3rd edn. Hogrefe-Verlag, GoettingenGoogle Scholar
  40. Reich Y (2000) Improving the rationale capture capability of QFD. Eng Comput 16(3–4):236–252zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Reich Y, Kapeliuk A (2005) A framework for organizing the space of DSS with application to solving subjective, context dependent problems. Decis Support Syst 41(1):1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reich Y, Ullmann G, Van der Loos M, Leifer L (2007) Perceptions of coaching in product development teams. in: CDROM Proceedings of the 16th international conference on engineering design (ICED), The Design SocietyGoogle Scholar
  43. Rueckle H (2000) Coaching. So spornen Manager sich und andere zu Spitzenleistungen an. Verlag Moderne Industrie, Landsberg/LechGoogle Scholar
  44. Sargent P, Subrahmanian E, Downs M, Greene R, Rishel D (1992) Materials’ information and conceptual data modeling. in: Barry TI, Reynard KW (eds) Computerization and networking of materials databases: third volume, ASTM STP 1140. American Society For Testing and MaterialsGoogle Scholar
  45. Schmidt G (1995) Business Coaching: Mehr Erfolg als Mensch und Macher. Gabler, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  46. Schreyoegg A (1995) Coaching. Eine Einfuehrung fuer Praxis und Ausbildung. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/MGoogle Scholar
  47. Schwarz R (2002) The skilled facilitator—a comprehensive resource for consultants, facilitators, managers, trainers, and coaches, 2nd edn. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  48. Senior B, Swailes S (2004) The dimensions of management team performance: a repertory grid study. Int J Prod Perform Manage 53(4):317–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shai O, Reich Y, Rubin D (2008) Creative conceptual design: extending the scope by infused design. Comput Aided Des (in press)Google Scholar
  50. Shaw MLG, Gaines BR (1989) Comparing conceptual structures: consensus, conflict, correspondence and contrast. Knowl Acquis 1(4):341–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Smith PG, Blanck EL (2002) From experience: leading dispersed teams. J Prod Innov Manage 19:294–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stewart GL (2006) A meta-analytic review of relationships between team design features and team performance. J Manage 32(1):29–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tuckman BW (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychol Bull 63(6):384–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Weiss J (1993) Selbst-Coaching. Persoenliche Power und Kompetenz gewinnen, 4th edn. Junfermann, PaderbornGoogle Scholar
  55. Werth L, Markel P, Forster J (2006) The role of subjective theories for leadership evaluation. Eur J Work Organ Psychol 15(1):102–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Whitmore J (1994) Coaching fuer die Praxis—Eine klare, praegnante und praktische Anleitung fuer Manager, Trainer, Eltern und Gruppenleiter. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/ MainGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yoram Reich
    • 1
    Email author
  • Georg Ullmann
    • 2
  • Machiel Van der Loos
    • 3
  • Larry Leifer
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of EngineeringTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.IPH Institut für Integrierte Produktion Hannover gemeinnützige GmbHHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Center for Design ResearchStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations