Shared Knowledge is key to our cooperative difference. It means consumers and workers understand Weaver Street Market’s vision and the plans for achieving it and provide ongoing input that improves the plan. It also means cooperatives are recognized as the preferred business model. This year we made progress with three initiatives: a new internal communication system called Slack, interactive governance sessions with the Board, and Co-op Plan events in which workers from all business units provided feedback on the 2016 Co-op Plan.
Slack brings real-time messaging to WSM units
Last winter our staff began using an online communication tool called Slack. We created various “channels” for groups that need to communicate (e.g., the marketing department, the Carrboro store staff, the produce departments in all stores) and user accounts for individuals and departments. Staff can post questions and information for an entire group or tag an individual. Although direct messaging to individuals and private groups are possible, the underlying premise is that shared “public” information creates a more efficient workplace. The interface is easy to use and similar to popular social media sites. The technology caught on quickly.
Having staff post on channels (instead of in group emails) ensures that everyone who needs information has access to it. For example, a conversation about the arrival of local strawberries on the produce channel informs the marketing department that the berries have arrived and can be advertised. A last-minute sale item can be posted and tagged to alert not only the store staff but also the drivers who’ll need to deliver the goods. Slack also makes responses more timely, because different staff members can reply depending on who’s working that day. Staff can keep track of happenings in other stores or chime in with thoughts for other departments.
Slack has been a godsend for inter-store and inter-department communication, and it provides an unexpected benefit of real-time problem solving. For example, one store may be selling more of a product featured for the WOW Weekend Deal. Using Slack, they can quickly find out if other stores can spare some of their product or if there is extra stored at the Food House.
Interactive governance sessions provide owners with an inside look
This summer the Board of Directors held an interactive governance session for owners. The session was an opportunity for owners to get an inside look at the work of the Board and the governance system that guides its work. The session was an orientation for consumer owners and worker owners interested in serving on the Board. It used an experiential format that framed the activities of a regular Board meeting within a broader discussion of ongoing Board priorities.
Owners were shown how the work of the Board is organized into four areas:
• Connecting with ownership to keep Weaver Street Market RELEVANT
• Envisioning an alternative future and defining RESULTS
• Accepting responsibility and delegating it responsibly to control MEANS
• Working as a group and effectively managing RELATIONSHIPS
Owners viewed firsthand how Board policies and the governance system come into play as the Board routinely monitors “relevance, means, results, and relationships” and how the Board draws upon them to make strategic decisions as the co-op plans for a sustainable future. For each segment of the Board meeting, attendees followed along as documents and reports were discussed. After observing the work in progress, owners participated in a Q&A session about what they had observed and what it meant for the larger context.
The session was so well received by the participants that the Board intends to offer the governance sessions regularly in the coming year.
Workers provided feedback through Co-op Plan events
This summer 200 WSM workers attended interactive Co-op Plan events that featured poster stations about projects and initiatives planned for 2016. The event was organized around the 2020 Goals and WSM’s Co-op Difference. The stations provided an opportunity for workers to visit with the individuals involved with the projects and also an opportunity to provide feedback on the projects and share ideas for new initiatives. Several hundred sticky notes with feedback were collected. Some of the most popular stations were
• WSM’s Role Facilitating New Local Products
• A New Co-op to Co-op Partnership with La Riojana Vineyards
• Sampling Our Made-to-Order WSM Sandwiches
• WSM’s Award-Winning Bread and Pies
• Store Renovations and Plans for New Stores
• The Weaver Card and the Co-op Bank
Consumer owners will have a similar opportunity to learn about these projects and provide feedback at the Co-op Fair. Read about the Co-op Fair and RSVP here.