Krish Iyer

Krish Iyer, Founder and Chief Catalyst at Qua Aliter Associates, Certified Coach

#022: Coaching Technology Teams in a VUCA World: Catalyzing Team Learning, Innovation and Change to Drive Business Results

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and leading organizational coach Krish Iyer for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast.  Krish is the Founder and Chief Catalyst at Qua Aliter Associates and brings more than 25+ years of experience across industries in sales, business development, business strategy, business process consulting, key account management and coaching for leadership and performance.  Krish has worked for a number of leading companies including 3M Co., Praxair, Satyam Computers and SAP.  Prior to founding Qua Aliter, Krish was the Global Vice President in the Strategic Customer Program for SAP and led a global team supporting SAP’s most strategic customers that accounted for 1/3 of the company’s $20 billion dollar business.  Krish is a graduate of Columbia University’s Advanced Coaching Certification program and currently works to deliver comprehensive and transformational engagements for both leaders and teams.

In this episode Krish shares his journey into team coaching building on his extensive experience leading cross-cultural and cross-functional global teams.  Krish shares stories coaching teams in the technology and customer relationship management arenas.  Some key themes explored in this episode include: team coaching in a VUCA world; learning, innovation and change in teams; design thinking and team coaching; blending the roles of consultant, facilitator, and coach; coaching presence; building leader-coach capacity within teams; appreciative inquiry; focusing on business results; experimentation in team coaching and more.

This episode is overflowing with practical insights, tips and tools that will help every new and experienced team coach take their practice to the next level!


Contact Krish: 




  1. Edmondson, A. (2012) Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. Jossey-Bass.
  2. Hawkins, P (2014). Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership. Philadelphia, PA, Kogan Press.
  3. Design Thinking Exercise: http://marshmallowchallenge.com/Welcome.html
  4. Leadership, Complexity and Decision Making HBR Article: https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making
  5. Eric Ries (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.
  6. Cooperrider, D. (2005). Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change.
  7. Boyatzis, R. (2006). An overview of intentional change from a complexity perspective. Journal of Management, 25(7), 607-623.



Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Krish Iyer

  • Founder and Chief Catalyst at Qual Aliter Associates
  • A network of professionals who help unlock individual, team and organizational potential to maximize performance
  • Based in Singapore
  • More than 25+ years of experience across industries in sales, business development, business strategy, business process consulting, key account management and coaching for leadership and performance.
  • Krish has worked for a number of leading companies including 3M Co., Praxis, Satyam Computers and SAP.  Prior to founding Qua Aliter, Krish was the Global Vice President in the Strategic Customer Program for SAP and led a global team supporting SAP’s most strategic customers that accounted for 1/3 of the company’s $20 billion dollar business.
  • Was an internal coach for SAP’s internal coaching practice
  • Krish is a graduate of Columbia University’s Advanced Coaching Certification program
  • Krish is a Chemical Engineer from the National Institute of Technology, India and an MBA from Bombay University and has trained at the IT Services Qualification Center at the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg in the eSCM Model.
  • He is also certified in the Neethling Brain Instrument, a leading thinking profile assessment tool, the Predictive Index, and Hogan Assessment Systems.
  • Frequent writer of blog posts on LinkedIn
  • A life-longer learner: from practice to theory
  • Passionate about “change”
  • Has been a citizen of 4 countries: UK, Uganda, India, Singapore
  • Marathon runner
  • Had “pet” hippos when growing up in Uganda as a child
  • Citizen of Singapore for 10 years
  • Qua Aliter Associates: interested in change and the changing nature of change itself; wanted to name his company around something that was about change.  Beginning of all change is to see things differently.  Qua Aliter is a latin phrase “which otherwise?” – a provocation to question the status quo in a positive way; linkage to Q&A (Questions & Answers)
  • Erwin Schrodinger Quote: “The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”
  • VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous – describes the changing nature of change itself
  • Importance of having a learning mindset to be agile and adaptable; limitations of subject matter expertise. Need expertise with constant questioning
  • Failing fast and failing forward: Amy Edmundson’s book on “Teaming”
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, how do organizations encourage innovation
  • Krish’s Journey to Coaching:
    • Grateful Dead quote: “It’s been a long strange trip”
    • Worked with 3M, Praxis, SAP
    • During dot com era got attracted to IT and joined SAP
    • Moved from sales to process to technology: realized in the end it is all about people and getting people to drive results
    • Led a global team for SAP supporting SAP’s top 300 clients who account for 1/3 of the company’s $20 billion annual revenues: headed the Center for Excellence supporting these customers in Asia Pacific
    • How to move from being a software provider to also a strategic business partner?
    • Ended up using team coaching principles, mindsets and techniques in this work and got the idea to start his own company, Qua Aliter Associates to focus more on this work
    • Was an internal coach for SAP before leaving to start Qua Aliter Associates
    • Got certified as a coach at the Columbia University Coaching Certification Program: liked the program’s emphasis on adult learning, leadership development and positive psychology
  • Influenced by Peter Hawkins work on team coaching: the 5 C’s of successful team practice – Commissioning, Clarifying, Co-Creating, Connecting, Core Learning; great scaffolding to drive a team coaching engagement
  • Krish would add a 6th “C” – Celebrating to Hawkins model
  • Feels team coaching works best when there are real business outcomes at stake; not just about focusing on soft skills of the team
  • When team coaching is really good it is almost invisible, is part of of the backbone of the teams work, it is the scaffolding that helps the team drive business results
  • Importance of “Leader-Coach”: can be any number of individuals on a team whether formal leader or not; helps the teaming move forward; linkage to agile development in software – SCRUM and the SCRUM master who keeps the team driving forward; an emergent role and can be taken up by any number of team individuals; especially helpful when mandate is unclear or work requires creation of novel products and services; when leader-coach is informed by team coaching practices that really can make a big difference in the team’s outcomes
  • External Team Coaches can be a catalyst and help model good team coaching: learning by osmosis – absorb the principles of team coaching; team coaches can help the team build their own leader-coach capacity across multiple individuals within the team

Part 2 – Stories Coaching Teams

  • Story #1 – Japanese Conglomerate
    • An example of using team coaching for complex account management
    • How team coaching principles and mindsets helped drive concrete business outcomes
    • When he as at SAP about 4 years ago
    • One of the largest Japanese trading companies: finance, energy, banking, auto, chemicals, food
    • Relationship was at a plateau – feeling like nothing was happening in the relationship
    • Was a key account: how to add value to the client as a strategic partner
    • Global Account Director in SAP: role to build relationship with key client; has a global team at his/her disposal (they don’t report directly to the Global Account Director as they manage their own teams but their expertise is available)
    • Krish brought in to help coach the Director and this team and beyond them to their stakeholders
    • First step was to do preparation: a stakeholder analysis (a la Peter Hawkins); what was SAP’s leadership’s vision for this relationship
    • Second step was to ensure this vision was communicated to the team that was co-opted to manage this key account relationship
    • Third step was to ensure that the team understood the client from the client’s perspective and not from SAP’s technology perspective
    • Fourth step: pre-work, getting into the weeks with the 30 people who were part of this team (cross-functional, cross-regional); language was an issue – easy for different interpretations of terms; this is where the coaching began – lots of one-to-one conversations; Japanese approach – the “meeting before the meeting”; tried to challenge the group (led to 10x goal in 3 years); got them to begin thinking of strategic drivers before a strategy retreat; also had to manage cultural differences in styles of stepping up to speak
    • Fifth step: strategy workshop; was pretty intense; 30 people in Tokyo; 1.5 days. Focus was “teaming and learning by doing”.  Took a design thinking approach to start more of a growth and exploration mindset.  Workshop was structured around discussions and exploration, small and large group conversations.  Had co-facilitators supporting him.
      • Design Thinking – Tim Brown and John Kelly at IDEO. Now has permeated to all kinds of products and services.  Can be helpful when needing to recast an outcome, when you are not looking for solutions to problems but for exploring opportunities. Design thinking for team coaching could be a great topic
      • Took a 5 step process in workshop: 1. Exploration – new ideas and insights; 2. How would that land on clients, 3. Building a gameplan with clear roles and responsibilities, 4. Reflection on what went well and what would change to make it real, 5. Broke it down using a SCRUM methodologies with meetings on alternate days (15 to 20 minute meetings to check in on progress); where the leader-coach role becomes important; had a progress tracker to sub-teams would know what is happening; Krish would come in and help them work through “stuckness”
    • Sixth Step: Ongoing Team Coaching – sub teams were meeting using SCRUM approach; Krish helped when stuck, work through elephants in the room
    • Client was eventually invited to Germany and led to a large deal with client based on this work; team became  real team and was very energized; set the ball rolling in SAP for this type of work across 300 top accounts globally; now has become part of the culture and DNA of the organization
    • Team coaching catalyzed engagement, organizational learning
    • Two big lessons for Krish:
      • Invest the time in preparation – understand the personalities, priorities, misalignments, red flags; worthwhile to understand the context
      • A good process is necessary but not sufficient:the coaching infused principles really help to drive success; leveraging coaching presence – listening, questioning, challenging assumptions, whole practice of coaching
    • Dynamic mixture of skills: consulting, facilitating, coaching
  • Story #2 – Technology Case, Large Manufacturer, IT Leadership Team
    • Trend in Silicon Valley around self-managing teams (e.g. Zappos)
    • Teams need to be coached either by building their own muscle or someone who can be a catalyst
    • Team coaching becomes very relevant for these experiments that are trying to get companies to be more self-managing
    • Because of cost pressures: a lot of operations were being transferred to a low cost locations
    • Team need to revise/recast its role in the new context; senior leadership wanted the team to embrace the change; reinvent their purpose
    • Large group of IT leaders – 20 team leads running separate functions
    • Didn’t use any psychometric assessments; however they did use detailed preparatory interviews to explore change readiness and hopes for the change (both at individual level and team level within respective teams)
    • Used Appreciative Inquiry approach: modified a bit to drive a team coaching engagement; also used design thinking exercises
    • Q Storming – like brainstorming but exploring assumptions by generating powerful questions; brainstorming with questions; effect in cases where you don’t have all the answers
    • SOAR -modified the AI language to fit the IT audience: Strengths (Dreaming), Opportunities (Discovery), Aspirations (Design), Results (Destiny)
    • David Cooperrider Appreciative Inquiry
    • Richard Boyatzis Intentional Change Theory
    • Used a value framework: 4 quadrants using post it notes to explore internal and external value
    • Used magazine cover device: to help them imagine what success would look like and to get leaders to reduce anxiety; can do big things; some strong ideas came out
    • Ongoing one-to-one coaching with each leader to cascade down to their teams
    • Human brain evolved to imagine new futures and be able to take action accordingly; can leverage this in team coaching; a power to harness; change people from a problem solving mindset into more of solutions finding mindset.
    • Appreciative Inquiry can help us start from a place of let’s look at the best possible outcomes
    • Two big lessons for Krish:
      • From a team coaching standpoint: Peter Hawkins 5 C framework; saw that very strongly in use here
      • Don’t be afraid to innovate; philosophy of team coaching; need to support tools with philosophy with strong concepts
      • As a team coach: bringing your presence; wearing different hats; constantly brining the principles of team coaching and the outcomes of the engagement in focus to help the team be successful

Part 3 – Parting Advice/Recommended Resources/Contact Information

  • What has Krish most excited now as a team coach: there is so much to learn; always excited to pick something up, a source of information, to experiment with it and then modify it and share it back with the community; this gives him a lot of energy; also finds that in organizations all change starts with a “few good men, a few good women, a few good people.”  A few people can when leveraged as catalysts can drive change.  This can help spread the DNA throughout an organization.
  • Parting Advice: attending to culture especially in cross-culture contexts; using simple language that people can understand; preparatory phase to understand cultural forces at play (generational differences, (intra) regional diversity, different mindsets that come with our cultures); we share meaning though language (can be a great source of confounding with our meanings)
  • How to Contact Krish:

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