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Adopting Operational Coaching as a Management Style to Drive SME Productivity
Last registered on March 04, 2020


Trial Information
General Information
Adopting Operational Coaching as a Management Style to Drive SME Productivity
Initial registration date
November 14, 2019
Last updated
March 04, 2020 9:28 AM EST

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Primary Investigator
London School of Economics
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Growth Hub Business Solutions Limited
PI Affiliation
Notion Ltd
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Our project will trial the use of the STAR(r) Manager programme in SMEs as a means to increase the adoption and effectiveness of Operational Coaching as a preferred management practice to drive team engagement and increase firm-level productivity and commercial performance.
'Coaching' is an acknowledged method for improving performance and productivity. However, as opposed to traditional coaching interventions that reach less than the top 5% of organisations (e.g. Executive Coaching programmes for senior managers), Operational Coaching focuses on enabling the other 95% of leaders and managers to adopt permanently into their everyday management style, a particular set of coaching-related behaviours that can be used frequently on the job, throughout the day.
A large number of corporate businesses have already incorporated Operational Coaching into their change journeys, where successful adoption has been proven to increase engagement and productivity levels as well as overall team performance. By first learning and then practising Operational Coaching skills, their leaders and managers have adapted their leadership and management style so that it's more 'enquiry-led' rather than directive ('command and control'). It's also used 'in the moment' at the point of maximum potential rather than being reserved for a later coaching session or performance review meeting.
Our trial will introduce these established Operational Coaching practices into SMEs by equipping managers and leaders with new skills. STAR(r) Manager is a novel, modular blended learning programme that can be pursued at times to suit individual learners. Developed in conjunction with LEO Learning (an internationally recognised leader in transformative learning), and designed from the ground up to be delivered at scale, the programme develops learners' knowledge of Operational Coaching practices and then challenges them to apply what they've learned in a series of pre-determined workplace missions, before then reflecting on their experience. In this way, learners generate new insights, which encourages gradual positive adjustments to their management and leadership behaviour including the greater use of 'enquiry'.

The SME firms to be targeted as part of this Randomised Control Trial will have between 50-250 FTEs, be spread geographically across the West midelands Combined Authority area and be drawn from a range of industries. The total number of SMEs to be sampled will be 150, each providing 10 individual participants. Participating firms will be randomised and allocated to the intervention or control group. The sample size has been chosen to balance a sufficiently large sample size for detecting the expected change difference against the likelihood of being able to recruit sufficient SMEs to participate.
Participating Organisations

The lead applicant is Notion Limited, a specialist in the field established in 2000 with a client base including Sainsbury's, Morgan Stanley and Royal Mail. Notion will manage the project and deliver the intervention to the randomised selection of SMEs. Notion's corporate website is www.BusinessCoaching.co.uk and the website for the STAR(r) Manager programme (this intervention) is www.STARmanager.global Notion will be assisted by Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership who will be a funded partner in the project. As an organisation that provides support for regional SMEs, CWLEP will provide Notion with access to over 50,000 SMEs throughout the wider WMCA region across a range of industries. CWLEP have agreed to act as the SME recruitment partner for firms to participate in the Trial. CWLEP's website is www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk.
The independent evaluation partner for this project will be the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a leading research university, whose evaluation work will be funded. LSE's website is www.lse.ac.uk.

The impacts of the trial will be measured in a number of different ways, both qualitative and quantitative. All participants (including the control group) will be surveyed before and after the programme. This survey will establish the proportion of their working day they spend 'coaching', their 'coaching' skills levels, commercial successes derived from using a 'coaching approach' and well-being and engagement. Other quantitative measures will be gathered at firm level, such as turnover. Costing data for the delivery of the intervention will be brought together with the outcome data to measure the commercial value of the intervention.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Peak, Phil, Ruth Phillips and Michela Tinelli. 2020. "Adopting Operational Coaching as a Management Style to Drive SME Productivity." AEA RCT Registry. March 04. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5008-1.1.
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Experimental Details
Notion’s STAR® Manager programme is a 6-month virtual, blended management development programme based around Notion’s STAR® Model for Operational Coaching. It teaches learners the key skills to enable them to use coaching-related behaviours in their everyday management style to improve the engagement, performance and productivity of the teams that they manage.

Notion's STAR® Manager programme for Operational coaching focuses on the manager's behaviour. It has been developed on the basis of academic research including Ebbinghaus, Honey & Mumford (Accelerated Learning Theory) and Harvard (Reflective Practice).

Notion’s STAR® model has been developed and refined over the last decade to bring about a change in the management application of coaching skills and has been implemented successfully within numerous organisations with a demonstrable return on investment.

The STAR® Manager programme to be used for the trial will utilise a novel blended learning format, which offers 20 'bite-sized' modules that can fit around each learner’s time available. The design of the programme incorporates advances in Cognitive Behavioural Psychology, Neuroscience and Learning Theory. Notion has already trialled the effectiveness of the virtual blended STAR® Manager programme in large organisations in the retail, financial services and higher education sectors.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome of the trial is calculated on the basis of the percentage of respondents in the self-assessment survey who report an increased time spent in coaching (sometimes it is also time spent leading) as opposed to managing or doing. We will also ask about their perception of coaching.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary outcome measures will cover four different outcome results:
1. Reaction (and wellbeing) outcomes: participants' perceptions, emotions, and subjective interpretations of their learning experience with the STAR® Manager programme;
2. Learning outcomes: how well the learning objectives are achieved;
3. Behaviour outcomes: the degree to which the STAR® Manager programme changes participants' behaviour in their actual job;
4. Organisational outcomes: information on the change in organisational performance.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The impact of the STAR® Manager programme will be measured by a Randomised Control Trial (RCT). This is an evaluator blinded, two-arm cluster randomised trial with a number of SMEs randomised 2:1 to receive the STAR® Manager programme or a control condition. The intervention will be conducted at the SME level for 6 months. Randomisation will take place after eligibility for the trial programme has been confirmed and initial data collection carried out at SME and individual levels. 150 SME firms from the WMCA region with 10 managers from each firm will participate in the STAR(r) Manager programme. Exclusion criteria are: Under 50 FTEs; Previous implementation of Operational Coaching methods; Exceeding the de minimis state aid level by participating.
The cluster randomised trial (CRT) will involve randomisation of groups (clusters) of individuals to control or intervention conditions. The agreed cluster unit will be by SME.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
150 SMEs
Sample size: planned number of observations
A total of 1500 leaders and managers (about 10 in each SME).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
100 SMEs intervention: 50 SMEs control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
minimum difference of 10% of time spent coaching
IRB Name
Care Policy and Evaluation Centre, London School of Economics
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number