Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Weave: Cherry-Picking 2022 Vision Feedback

A week ago, the workers of Weaver Street Market Co-operative received a write-up of the input we gave at our recent Annual Store Meetings on WSM’s 2022 Vision.

As with so much that trickles down to us from our all-powerful WSM corporate office management team, on the face of it, the write-up looked quite promising. Until you noticed what was missing.

For sure, I was overjoyed to be receiving any kind of document which publicly confirmed what we workers had ostensibly offered by way of input to a decision-making process in which we are supposed always to be fully and meaningfully involved.

But almost from the opening paragraph, the gaps and the condescending assumptions were obvious:

1) We were told that someone (er, actually me) had requested that everyone be involved in the decision-making, that we help move the vision to action, and that we have ongoing meetings.

Hmm. Almost. What I actually asked for was that we not simply be permitted to help implement the vision, but that we be allowed to help design it, too.

What we had so far was the vision of the corporate office management team. If we wanted it to be the vision of WSM, then a process had to be found whereby owners, stakeholders and workers could review the four goals advanced by the corporate office management team, and determine if these were the goals we wanted going forward, or if we would prefer different goals.

Otherwise, we would have a situation where the common needs of the co-op over the next ten years were being decided by a small group at the corporate office, and not by the body of stakeholders.

I specifically suggested that we use Panzanella on Monday evenings, when the restaurant is closed, to undertake this goal review.

There is no mention of any of this in the alleged comprehensive documentation of worker input at our Annual Store Meetings.

Of course, there isn’t. It would mean the corporate office democratically handing decision-making power to the stakeholders.

2) Neither is there any word of my second suggestion. Namely, that, when it came time to implement the vision, rather than merely seeking input from workers as to how they would like to implement the vision, WSM actually devolve to stores and departments the power to make those decisions for themselves.

Again, I’m not surprised this does not show up in our feedback document. Because, again, heaven forbid, it would mean taking power away from the self-selected few in the WSM corporate office.

Even though it makes perfect sense that those charged with implementing the vision are much more likely to be invested in that implementation if they truly helped to design the vision, and are the ones making the decisions as to how to implement it.

3) The other major omission is any negative reference to the new expansion project (three new stores), of which there has been plenty.

Workers are genuinely concerned that there are many important matters to be resolved from the last expansion project (not least the matter of the $7 million in debt still owing), all of which should be addressed before we start gallivanting around, creating more stress for the existing systems and processes.

Besides those specifics, there were two other issues which leant a certain stale flavor to the presentation in the document.

First, the opening paragraph kept talking about how ‘we’ were going to move this whole process forward. Without actually defining ‘we.’ In the past, this has usually meant the WSM corporate office management team. And there was little in the document to suggest otherwise this time.

Secondly, it was (at least for me) interesting to note that the corporate office are prepared to give us easy access to feedback (pretty little documents, in each of our mailboxes), when it suits their convenience. “Here you go chaps. What we in the corpo … I mean, what all of us have agreed ‘we’ are going to do about the corpor … I mean ‘our’ vision.”

But, when it is feedback that is not to their liking (“your new Social Media Policy is fascist crap”), you have to wade through the minutiae of our private Wikipedia site to find the document in question.

Sigh. And so it is that our blessed corporate office management team once again redefine democracy, transparency and inclusion in our very own brand of co-operation.

What can you do? Turn up at the WSM Annual Meeting. Speak up at your department meetings. Stand up to your store and department managers. And demand that all workers, owners and stakeholders be given a proper opportunity to decide for themselves what they want the goals of Vision 2022 to be, and how they want them to be implemented.

And maybe request that we have someone less partial handle feedback in future? Rather than having the corporate office take our … I mean, pick our cherries …