Co-SPIN – (Co)-create with (SP)eed and (IN)novation, using storytelling craft


Today’s business world brings with it more complexity, a wider diversity of issues, and an ever-increasing pressure to change faster than ever before. Businesses today recognize a need to challenge and refine their business strategy and operational constructs—and at times significantly alter them—to ensure they are focused on the best opportunities for growth and increased shareholder value. An effective deployment requires that the organization own it and that they move through the transformation process at an accelerated pace. Conventional methods with traditional time frames cannot achieve this.

In a turbulent business environment, it has become vital for companies driven by digital, globalization, regulations and other pressures, to generate continuous insights and acting on them frequently. Traditional annual strategic planning cycles have to be complemented with iterative strategies broken into smaller chunks alongside co-created execution that is relatively more dynamic and engaged. These companies have to systematically scan the horizon for signs of disruption and explore for unexpected changes to their strategic positioning. They have to continuously deliver innovation to disrupt the industry before they get disrupted, while re-imagining their offerings, rethinking their value chain and exploring innovative business model. It involves three key steps – scanning for opportunities, converging or the right opportunity, acting on the opportunity fast, scaling up the successful solutions, and leading & sustaining change.

What is Co-SPIN

Co-SPIN stands for co-creation with speed and innovation. “Right story. Told right. Together.” It is a collaborative co-creation exercise done iteratively where strategies are broken into smaller chunks for focused innovation around the customer needs with value focus, alongside execution that is optimized for speed. This exercise would regularly engage the senior leaders to address most pressing strategic issues to develop an appropriate response while executing on innovative solutions. Inspired by the “Accelerated Solutions Environment (ASE)” at Gemini Consulting in the early 1990’s, innovative solutions, cohesive teaming, accelerated execution and faster results are the hallmarks of this exercise. Through out the various stages of this exercise, storytelling craft is used to not only engage the participants, but emotionally connect and earn commitment towards high-performance. A startup mindset is adopted to have a cohesive team spirit that is customer centric, insurgent and biased towards action. Agile principles are incorporated to address the innovation and speed. Design thinking ensures keeping the solutions derived, brimming with customer centricity through a clear understanding of the customer experience journey.

To achieve ownership, momentum and speed, organizations must rapidly design, build and operate the new strategy or initiative, not just think about implementation. This requires focus, commitment, unique tools and techniques, and an environment that fosters change. To address these challenges, Co-SPIN was designed—a unique process that is focused on creativity, innovation, speed, knowledge, enabling technology and environment. This process includes all participants of the value chain, from consumers to providers, working in a collaborative session. Successful transformation depends on an iterative process that moves an organization through various levels of strategy, conceptual design, solution build and operation.

Getting to the right story

A Guiding Coalition (CG) team chaired by the CEO will steer the Co-SPIN team, and help prioritize the high-value strategic issues that the Co-SPIN team will attack. Several forums can be used to identify such issues and prioritized before the exercise begins. To converge on the right issues, factors like customer priorities, strategic impact, competitive advantage, or industry disruption could be used. External signals are captured and evaluated in various parts of the organization that may have potentially deep impact to the organization. Such issues can be escalated and brought into the GC, to be prioritized with other issues gathered. Many issues may get dropped out by getting to resolution, or getting delegated to other teams, even before it gets into prioritization. The idea is to create a regularly updated pipeline of such the high-impact issues with significant Implementation challenges that cannot be resolved in any other part of the organization. The most important topics are those that relate to the key risks, challenges, and opportunities highlighted in existing strategic plans.

Frame the problem and derive the solution

Pick the right issue, and re-frame the problem within the Co-SPIN team first. Once again, the problems may get resolved or simply go away as it gets re-framed. Just as when coming up with a solution, framing the problem is an important part of the Co-SPIN session, which also uses the storytelling craft through visualization, immersion and collective build to articulate the problem into a compelling narrative. Also the definition of successful completion is also articulated before diving into developing a solution to the problem. The right executive would be assigned ownership and accountability with decision rights, on the strategy and execution of the issue being brought to resolution. Each project will receive the necessary resources and staffing, including the relevant line expertise. In addition to ensuring that expertise is available to support decision making, involving the line organization makes it more likely that the initiatives emerging from a project will be implemented. To complement and challenge the internal understanding, the Co-SPIN team should selectively involve external stakeholders (such as customers, suppliers, and experts).

Much of the exercise after the right people are in the Co-SPIN space, is around getting a clear understanding of the internal or external customer needs and their entire experience journey that is posing the issue. Process owners in the room should layout the various opportunities and threat on their process map while walking the Co-SPIN team through it. Breakout sessions are used to gather multiple solutions to the problem from different perspectives. The solutions are combined and refined rapidly into one minimally viable solution that can be prototyped. The entire process is iterative, broken into smaller chunks, where the team goes through innovate, build, assess, learn cycles several time to optimize the solution. Even if you fail at any stage, you fail fast and fail cheap, during the test and refine stage. A mindset of experimentation is achieved through trial and error during the entire process. Co-SPIN emphasizes every aspect of a collaborative co-creation exercise—from content and storytelling, to physical space, visual inspiration, people dynamics, behavioral expectations and organizational engagement. Agile principles, design thinking and startup mindset are incorporated into the way Co-SPIN exercise is designed for each client’s specific requirements. The team would benefit from bringing their creativity into the collective thinking, while building collaboratively a solution dynamically that in itself is motivating and energizing.

Scale-up successful initiatives

The successful solution in a minimally viable state will be presented to the GC team for validation. Once again all the storytelling tactics will be used to ensure buy-in and commitment to the solution. If an enterprise-wide strategic initiative office or PMO does not already exist, one is formed to figure out how the new solution fits into the enterprise-wide business transformation initiatives. It also looks into how the offerings or operating model will be affected, and what processes will have to be changed for iterative deployment of the solution. The PMO will also track how these roll-outs with specific milestones, will impact the KPIs, while they limit risks from them to existing operations. The iterative deployment may have a phased approach to allow for organizational change management and cultural shifts necessary to take place also. However, the bias for action, customer obsession, and insurgency are all aspects of startup-mindset that will be incorporated for speed in execution.

Lead and sustain change

As is the case with any business transformation initiative, the successful solutions from the Co-SPIN team would have to set the climate for change, enable & engage the organization, and implement & sustain the new ways. Most often, this is handled by the enterprise-wide PMO as an organizational change management work-stream while working closely with the Co-SPIN team. This would require change leadership that includes people risks and impact, leadership alignment, stakeholder engagement, communication/mobilization and cultural shifts. The organization itself might need redesign of structure and governance, workforce transition, additional talent requirements, and learning components like knowledge transfer & training.

Key principles for Co-SPIN to succeed

Co-SPIN is designed to deliver the best value for clients in the shortest period of time.

  • It is an accelerated solutions environment where the participants leave their regular environment into an off-site space to innovate, build, assess, learn, fail fast, fail cheap, to rapidly test and refine solutions, while scaling up the successful prototypes to the production environment with iterative deployment.

  • The off-site exercise separates the participants from their baggage of daily routines and workloads without any distractions. The physical separation allows them to have undivided focus on the highly collaborative problem-solving exercise at hand.

  • A set of guiding principles, protocols and quick rules of thumb are established upfront, so that common pitfalls are avoided through the process.

  • The process is designed to bring out the deep insights about the issue at hand to collectively arrive at the optimum solution through dialogue, storytelling, building, testing, learning and prototyping.

Innovation and speed are major aspects of the exercise that results in an actionable plan with milestones for solution deployment, along with the pride of ownership of what the team could collectively accomplish.

Finally, it is the unique interplay in a very collaborative environment that opens up new thinking and encourages the new possibilities, which otherwise could not be arrived at. The understanding, commitment and shared purpose provides a safe space to listen, reflect and adapt to new innovative ways of doing things that are otherwise mundane. And by removing the barriers between strategy and execution, participants feel liberated to think and act on ideas that emerge then and there. Overall, it is an inspiring and motivational experience that the participants can take away with them as a repeatable process for themselves.

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