Saturday, September 6, 2014

"What Do You See ... ??"

We just had the most interactive annual employee store meeting in Weaver Street Market Co-operative since 2007. We were actually asked what we wanted. Over and over. Hence, the regular questions from the WSM General Manager, Ruffin Slater, "what do you see?" and "what do you want?"

Now, granted, in our store meeting, we kind of tore up Ruffin's agenda, and substituted our own. But, we were only able to do this because he set the scene by saying the meeting was about our making a contribution, being involved.

Well. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Maybe the continual whining about co-op policy demanding we workers be a part of decision-making has sunk in? In any event, it was gratifying.

By the end of the meeting, an interesting symmetry had developed. One or two of us were making the point that we wanted more involvement in decision-making, at all levels, department, store and co-op, because the co-op is half-owned by workers, because co-op policy demands it, and because it makes sense - as in, workers are much more likely to be invested in and want successfully to implement decisions in which they have been involved.

At the same time, you can't be sensibly involved in decision-making unless you have the fullest information upon which to base a sensible contribution. Ruffin was all about improving the flow of proper information to we workers going forward.

The problem still remains that, although we had a full consultation exercise among workers in the co-op in 2007, to determine which types of decisions should include employees, we never got around to discussing how we would be involved.

So, at the end of the meeting, when Ruffin was asking us what consultation we would like in the future, I suggested an employee and manager task force, to review decision-making in the co-op, at all levels, and come up with ideas for how we could institute structures and processes which would encourage a more regular inclusion of employees in decision-making.

Of course, a suggestion isn't the be all and end all. It has to happen. But, I'm grateful that we got to a point where I could make the suggestion, in an understandable context, in front of my peers. Now, I need to follow up. So. Nice e-mail to Ruffin:

"Hey Ruffin,

Wonderful meeting today. As I keep saying, the most interactive employee co-op meeting since 2007. Thank you to you and to everyone else for the hard work in preparation and presentation.

I think there was a symmetry to the meeting overall. On the one hand, I was able to make my point, in front of others, that there is co-op policy which demands that employees are involved in decision-making, that sets out which decisions, and also requires that employees be involved in the design of the process that includes them in decision-making.

On the other hand, there is precious little point in including employees in decision-making if they do not have the necessary data to make informed decisions. And your interactive presentation today was extremely helpful in visiting precisely that sort of ongoing data that will make for informed decisions.

Which now leaves the next step in this process, as I see it. And that is my request for a task force of employees and managers to consider options for the processes which will better and more regularly allow employees to be included in the decision-making that co-op policy demands, at department, store and co-op level.

I look forward to your action on this. And I will be following up - as I'm sure you would expect! I agree with you. We have a period of at least a few years, when we can fine tune all sorts of aspects about the co-op. I think that including employees in decision-making invests them in those decisions, and encourages we employees to be more interested and productive. And the time for laying the groundwork for better decision-making processes is also right now.

Many thanks again.

All the best,