On business culture, cooperative-style

Why do I think that the Co-operative Group still has some significant management problems to overcome?  Partly because it has so far failed to develop an effective corporate culture (let’s say, an effective cooperative culture) which reaches right down to all its employees, in all its stores.

Customers in Co-op Group stores are currently receiving with their till receipts an extra slip inviting them to participate in the Have Your Say survey.  The last two times I’ve shopped in a Co-op Group store this slip hasn’t been proffered to me, just put to one side by the staff as if it will be of no interest.

There remains a fracture between what gets decided in Manchester, the Co-op Group’s head office, and what happens at shop level.  You have only to contrast the difference between the Group and, say, John Lewis/Waitrose to draw the conclusion that the Group is still struggling to communicate its values and its strategy to those of its staff who meet its members on a day-to-day basis.  To be honest, I think Sainsburys and Asda do staff engagement better than the Co-op.

It’s not easy to change a business culture, but it can be done.  (If you want an example from the cooperative sector, I’d suggest you look at what the cooperative insurer NTUC Income has recently been up to in Singapore).

So there’s a challenge ahead for the Co-op Group.  What would be an indicator of success?  A sense that shopping in a coop store really was a significantly different, and significantly more rewarding, experience than shopping elsewhere.

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