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Originator of the GROW coaching model


On doing some reseach into the GROW model it is confusing to establish who orginally developed the GROW model:
Tthere is John Whitmore who developed it but also Graham Alexander who developed GROW in the 80s also Max Lansberg states in the TAO of Coaching that he developed the GROW model. Very confusing information and I'm wondering who the actual originator is?
Karen Taplin

9 Responses

  1. Grow
    I think what you’ll find is that John Whitmore and Graham Alexander worked together in the past and then went their separate ways. My recollection is that Graham developed initially and John refined it when he started Performance Consultants. Where Max fits into the equation I’ve no idea.

  2. Who owns GROW
    I do not believe that John Whitmore stakes a claim to have developed the GROW mnemonic. In his book “Coaching for Performance” he states,

    “Mnemonics abound in the training business. There is SPIN, there are SMART goals, there is GRIT and there is GROW coaching.” (page 55)

    He also says on page 56, “If you get anything at all out of this book, let it be AWARENESS and RESPONSIBILITY, not GROW.”

    Hardly the words of a man championing his baby!

    Perhaps GROW is to go into training folklore the same as the Conscious Competent model. Everyone uses it but no-one actually knows who thought of it first.

  3. Gallwey is the key
    I’m not certain, but heard from a colleague who worked with Whitmore and Alexander that they were both early pupils of Tim Gallwey when he first came to the UK. They were then working with a group in the city re coaching in business either accountants or consultants, and after observing several coaching sessions, it was noted that the common process they intuitively followed was GROW.
    Hopefully helpfully
    Anne Tunnadine

  4. The RGOW Model

    1. According to the authors of “The Reflecting Glass” (one of he best all-round introductions to business coaching, IMO), Graham Alexander originated the GROW model in the mid-80s, but it didn’t attract a lot of public attention until it appeared in the first (1992) edition of “Coaching for Performance”, by John Whitmore.

    2. More to the point, the GROW model doesn’t actually work as it stands, which is why John Whitmore offers a somewhat desultory excuse for the first two stages being back to front (see start of Chapter 8 in the 2002 edition of his book).

    If GROW were correct, that would mean that you could set Goals without having the faintest idea what the current Reality was. Which of course you can’t. At the very least you must know who or what the goal(s) are being set for.

    Whitmore’s comment is:

    “Even if goals can be only loosely defined before the situation is looked at in some detail, this needs to be done first.”

    Why? As he goes on to say:

    “Then, when the reality is clear, the goals can be brought into sharper focus or even altered if the situation turns out to be a little different from what was previously thought.”

    In other words, “We all know GROW is wrong, BUT
    GROW is catchy, and RGOW ain’t”

    Both “The Reflecting Glass (West and Milan) and “Coaching for Performance” are reviewed on my website @:

    Be well

    Andy Bradbury

  5. an odd side line
    When I first came across the GROW model in the early 1990s I was struck by how similar it was to the “Appreciation” I was taught at Sandhurst in 1981. This “appreciation” is taught for problem solving so it is a first hand tool rather than a tool for coaching others. I believe that this model has been used at Sandhurst since the 1930’s!

  6. beyond GROW
    I agree with Andrew in that it is difficult to formulate appropriate goals without understanding the current situation. I came across another model (ACHIEVE) which I think works better

    Assess current situation
    Creative brainstorming of alternatives to current situation
    Hone goals
    Initiate options
    Evaluate options
    Valid action programme design
    Encourage momentum

  7. Graham Alexander
    I asked Graham Alexander myself and this is his reply:

    I am the originator of GROW (in spite of other claims etc!). I thought you might be interested in the following excerpts from e-mails when this was questioned some time ago:
    John Whitmore – “Graham’s claim to have invented GROW is technically true”
    McKinsey (my client at the time) – “I see you, Graham, as the originator”.

    I thought you might be interested in this. Best wishes Sheena

  8. Truth will out
    Sheena, Thank you very much for going to the trouble of tracking this down. Personally I like to know who developed the models that are bandied around in our profession. Now, if we could just figure out who invented the Conscious competent model …..

    Life’s an adventure – enjoy the journey.


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