How the co-do! lab Supports Companies to Create Customised Transformation Pathways

Victoria Funk is a CSCP project manager and co-do lab team member with a decade of experience in digital transformation and business development. In this interview, she explains how the co-do lab steps in to empower and support businesses in their transformation journeys. The CSCP has launched the co-do lab, a Wuppertal-based do tank that runs as a social business, to radically scale up our efforts in transforming businesses, municipalities, and cities to become more sustainable. You can read more about the co-do lab here.

There is an urgency to scale transformative solutions toward sustainability now. Yet, transforming can be too complex and overwhelming for many organisations. How does the co-do lab step in?

First of all, the co-do lab approach is to pick up organisations from where they are at the moment. This means that we have to understand the status quo which includes a comprehensive assessment of the organisation’s current state, strengths, weaknesses, and above all opportunities. Together with our clients, we identify the key areas for transformation based on their impact. Prioritising these fields of action is key as one cannot cover all fields at the same time without overburdening the organisation, as well as compromising economic stability. Finally, we create an individual transformation pathway that outlines incremental, achievable goals that fit the organisation.

An organisation may be aware of the need to change and even willing to transform, yet unsure what type of journey can take them to the desired goal…

The co-do lab does not offer any pre-set solutions. Rather we follow an adaptable approach. We deliberately talk about a transformation “journey” since there is no linear route that only needs to be followed. In a volatile and ever-changing world, we no longer consider it helpful to stick to static 5-year plans. It is part of the game to remain flexible, make adjustments or even be bold enough to change the direction. For example, organisations should use insights from pilot projects to refine strategies and adjust the transformation pathway accordingly if needed. What we offer though is a toolbox from which organisations can choose based on where they are at a given moment. Some organisations might already have a clear strategy in place, but need support in implementing it. Others could be on a different stage and lack inspiration on where to even start. This is why the toolbox covers different fields of action: Inspire (through “Taste” formats or our pioneer network), Define (strategy co-development, building an encouraging change story), Enable (through capacity building, micro-experiments, pilot projects), and Scale (by offering digital learning journeys to reach the entire organisation, building multiplier networks, or enabling knowledge carriers). My co-do lab colleague, Philipp Ober has explained all these stages in detail in this interview.

A challenge for many companies is that the impact of measures implemented by external consultants does not sustain over time. How is the co-do lab approach different in this regard?

One of the main reasons is that companies often have no plan on how to sustain the initiated changes once the consultants leave. However, the co-do lab is not a consultancy, but rather a partner that accompanies organisations on their transformation journey. So, on one hand we focus more on medium to long-term partnerships. On the other hand, it is of great importance to us to empower employees in ways that they can sustain the initiated change on their own. This is where our 10% approach comes in: We aim to inspire and enable at least 10% of the people of an organisation to co-create the journey with us. The 10 % reference is of course not a random pick. Rather it is based on the so-called “adoption curve” that describes the composition of change types within an organisation. It defines a critical mass that must be reached in order to trigger a tipping point, putting the majority of an organisation in motion. Because once these so-called ambassadors are identified and empowered, they will advocate for and lead transformation efforts within their teams. Apart from that, it is absolutely crucial to build cross-functional networks to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration across the organisation. In this regard, we consider, for example, cross-functional workshops and projects as well as establishing Train-the-Trainer formats when it comes to scaling our fields of action.

Transformation is also about change, which can be scary and trigger an array of reactions from reluctance to rejection. How does the co-do lab employee journey address this?

First of all, I think it is important to emphasise that frustration and resistance are very normal in such big change processes – they are part of it. Therefore, it is also essential to anticipate that performance and morale will crack at certain points in the transformation journey. What differentiates our approach is that we look into the different dimensions of organisational transformation.

Transformation processes often fail because the focus is too much on the output rather than on the people within an organisation, who also have to adopt the change and carry it forward. In order to achieve sustainable organisational development, it is essential to pursue parallel development at the personal and system levels. There tends to be a strong focus on the externally visible part of change, like on processes, organisational structure and new ways of working. However, the not-so-visible part, which includes aspects such as culture and individual mindset is often neglected. Although the success of transformation processes highly depends on the people undergoing it.

To this end it is always helpful to offer people within an organisation ideas how future scenarios can look like so that they create a feeling of what opportunities lay ahead and how to co-shape them. Our co-do lab “Taste” formats do just that.

Can you give us an example?

Sure, let’s say that you are an organisation that decides to reorganise parts of your structure in a top-down manner and without really actively involving your employees. I am convinced chances are high you will risk provoking resistance or resignation. This perhaps also distinguishes the co-do lab from others: In everything we do, we always consider the “invisible part” at the same time. This is where the “Taste” formats come into play to expose people to what is possible and how that looks or feels like.

Another essential aspect is being able to lead with empathy. Rituals, team building and dialogue are central to our approach. If needed, we support the change of leadership culture. Finally, also recognition and appreciation have a positive effect on reducing resistance. Celebrating success – even if it’s only a small step, is really important.

Curious about what your transformation journey could look like? Please reach out directly to Victoria Funk!