From the GM: Ends and Beginnings

From the GM: Ends and Beginnings

by David Lester

As I sat in my office on the eve of my first year anniversary as General Manager, I began to think of all we’ve accomplished this year at the store.  We’ve told our story through articles and emails , but how do we really monitor the full picture of our progress?  One very good way we do this is through something called an Ends report.

One year ago I had barely become familiar with the eight Ends established by our Board.  As time progressed I began to see the importance of these statements and the challenge to weave them into our daily work here at the Co-op.  These statements are the outcomes we collectively want from our Co-op.

The Co-op’s Ends

Because the Oneota Community Co-op exists as an institution grounded in the cooperative principles, there will be the following:

1. a retail source for food and other products that, to the greatest extent possible, are organic, sustainably produced, locally grown and/or processed, and affordable.

2. a business that encourages the expansion of sustainably grown local food sources.

3. a business that promotes the development of cooperation and co-operative enterprise.

4. a community that is educated about food and other products that are healthy for people and the environment.

5. a business that promotes environmental sustainability.

6. employment in a work place that provides the personal satisfaction of collaborative work directed toward common goals.

7. a local community whose fabric is strengthened through caring, and sharing gifts of time, energy, and resources.

8. an institution that respects and encourages the diversity of its membership.

I was asked by the Board to define each End and begin thinking about possible data sources for monitoring them.  My first priority was to gather the management team and discuss what the statements meant.  What does “sustainably produced” mean?  What does “a community educated about food” mean?  What is a diverse membership?  These were some of the questions that the management team and I began to answer.

After many weeks of data gathering and preparation, I submitted the first Ends report to the Board on March 22.  Above all, I feel this process has created a sense of mindfulness in the organization. The staff and I have created a tool in Google Docs to track our accomplishments of these Ends. We’ve established metrics that will make this report even more vibrant next year.  Through meetings, regular discussions and via full organizational input, this mindfulness of our Ends becomes part of even the smallest decisions we make.  Our goal for the next few years will be to refine interpretations, build databases and develop surveys needed to continue our progress.   This progress will be seen in many documents and work we do at the Co-op, like the Annual Business Plan.

It is encouraging and worth celebrating that our whole Co-op structure is beginning to reach this point of detail in our work.  However, this is only the beginning of the Ends!