Staff across CNWL will have probably heard about the need to include a QI Coach (or Improvement Coach) in a quality improvement project.  But what does a QI Coach do and what can you expect of them? This article aims to demystify the role, detailing what they can and cannot do for you in a project team.

A QI Coach is a highly trained colleague who provides expert advice on improvement methodology and technical advice on using the Model for Improvement.  They will work closely with the project lead and/or project team to support them to progress their project, especially where the team needs support to use tools or new approaches to explore their area of interest. 

Early on in the project the coach may expect to attend team meetings, either in person or virtually, and to provide relatively intensive support.  This should reduce over time as the team gains knowledge and confidence in using the Model for Improvement.

The Coach:

  • Is the point of contact for the team lead and provides support as required to facilitate the team meetings, particularly in terms of QI methodology
  • Is the ‘go to’ person for all questions on QI methodology and Life QI in the first instance
  • Will challenge and support the team as they go on their improvement journey
  • Supports the project team to celebrate progress and success, for example, by reviewing and changing the project score on Life QI (the score is manually progressed by the team; it is not automatic)
  • May provide support to the team to develop their story board and to tell their story to others – via QI display boards, posters, presentations etc.
  • May approach the project Sponsor if there are concerns about the progress of the project or the way in which the project team are engaging with the improvement work

The QI Coach is not responsible for:

  • Doing the work to bring about improvement
  • Managing team members and team dynamics
  • The relative success or failure of the project

The diagram below can help us to also understand the difference between a coach and a consultant or mentor.

A good QI Coach will ask questions; usually lots of questions, some of which may either seem obvious or even very challenging.  But their style of supporting a project needs to be about asking the team the right questions at the right time to keep the team focused on their improvement aim and looking forward.  Another aspect of the QI Coach role is to always be looking forward to the next step, so that a project team moves onwards in its work.  To do this, a coach will often be heard asking the questions ‘So what does that mean?’ (reflecting on data or knowledge) and ‘So what do you need to do next?’ (inviting action from the team).

Being a QI Coach is a very rewarding role. Helping and watching a QI project team develop, as their confidence in using the model for improvement grows, is very satisfying.  Coaches are a very valuable asset, so engage with them and allow them to aid your improvement success!

Accessing a QI Coach

Access to a QI Coach for your project can be set up via contact with your Divisional Improvement Advisor and it is a good idea to discuss your needs with them at the point where you register your project on Life QI.  Up to date contact details for Improvement Advisors for Corporate, Diggory, Goodall or Jameson Divisions can be found on the Improvement Academy web pages under ‘contacts’ and are published monthly in the IA Newsletter.

Contact Information

For support or further information on any aspect of improvement work in CNWL, please contact the QI Team in the Improvement Academy at: