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Making Change Stick

A grocery cooperative with three sites (Eastside, Downtown, Off-Site Kitchen) and 20 million dollars in annual sales is a big change. Compared to a small, single site operation at 1221 Williamson Street, you might even call it an 800-pound gorilla. Operating at this new, higher level has given rise to some thought-provoking questions and discussion in the Board room as we grapple with what it means to “manage change.” Now that we have solidified physical plans to operate in three places, all at the same time, the Board has begun to ponder questions like:

  • How do we ensure the positive culture at 1221 Williamson, built and nurtured over time, is carried forward and maintained at the new site?
  • How do we ensure the old store learns from its younger counterparts— the Off-Site Kitchen and the new store at Metropolitan Place?
  • How do we keep the focus on maintaining one positive culture and avoid becoming independent units that compete for resources and the General Manager’s attention?
For those of you worried that the Board is crossing over into operational issues, you needn’t worry. We fully understand that it is the job of the GM and staff to build and maintain the Co-op’s culture. In support of that challenge, the Board is looking at what systems and policies should be in place to support the organizational change that will be taking place over the new few years. One idea under serious review is the creation of the Healthy Work Environment Committee. The GM and Board are working together with staff and volunteers to examine how this new approach, different from the current Personnel Committee, could be used to promote, monitor, and maintain a positive culture across the entire enterprise. This work group is examining how a formal, permanent committee, compromised of a cross-section of staff from across the Cooperative, could be created and then charged with being the keeper of the Willy Street Co-op staff culture. The new committee would be responsible for promoting and maintaining a healthy work environment for all staff through a combination of policy, education, training, and special events. They would set annual goals, have resources to achieve those goals, make decisions based upon data, and use tools like surveys and focus groups to continually monitor employee attitudes and preferences.
We are expecting the committee’s recommendations soon and are open to new policies as well as bylaw revisions that will support the goal of building and maintaining a positive, thriving culture across all sites, present and future operated by Willy Street Co-op. Stay tuned and look for possible new language in the revised bylaws.