What’s Best For Our "Weave"?

I’ve been finding myself having increasingly similar conversations with a number of workers at the Carrboro and Hillsborough locations, as well as in Southern Village.

The recurring theme is one of conflicted emotions. And I thought it might be helpful to share what’s been said, along with some thoughts of my own.

What follows is not a comprehensive list of direct quotes, but rather is my best shot at summarizing what’s been said to me:

· We love “The Weave.” We want what’s best for “The Weave.” We want what’s best for our customers. We want what’s best for all “Weavers.”

· We’re not sure all of these current changes and their consequences are the best for our customers – or for us and our work colleagues. But we don’t want to be disloyal to our “Weave.”

· Whatever we like or don’t like, we want us to be the best we can be, for our customers and for our fellow workers. So, we want to implement these changes as best we can. We sure don’t want our “Weave” to stumble.

· But, that doesn’t mean we’re happy about all the changes, the consequences, or the decisions made in the past, or even at the moment. And we’re still uneasy that we weren’t properly asked about all these huge changes. We remember one or two slide-shows and displays. But did any owners or workers actually ever get a vote…?

· How can we find a way to express all of this, that is constructive, that is good for “The Weave,” good for our customers – and good for us as well?

· In fact, we’re about to refurbish the Carrboro store. How can we be sure that this time we will be consulted about that – before it happens? To make sure it’s what customers and workers truly want? And that it’s done in a way that doesn’t cause as much grief as the changes to Carrboro have done so far? After all, we keep telling ourselves “we own it.”

· Mind you, we do kind of like some of the new machinery, and the extra space that’s on the way (particularly in Hillsborough). But, why do we feel that the only choice offered is between getting material improvements or sticking up for co-operative values? Why can’t we have both? And by the way, who is going to end up paying for all of this…?

· Help!

Hmm. Ok. Now, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. So, if it helps at all, here’s how it goes for me:

We are where we are. I’m not convinced we got here in the most democratic and co-operative fashion. But, now that the big decisions have been made, and the big changes are underway, I’m going to work my hardest to make sure they succeed. Hey, it’s my dividend, too!

More than that, I’m going to take pride in that success, and I’m going to enjoy the new goodies that come my way. I’ve earned them. You’ve have earned them. And we all deserve them.

And I’m going to do what I can to help our “Weave” be the very best it can be for our customers. They are loyal to us. Many have paid Ownership dues. They deserve that too.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with any of this.

Just as there is nothing wrong with our then saying, hey, next time, could you please ask us first? Could we maybe have some more democracy in the big decision-making?

You see, what many of you have told me is that we believe that our “Weave” can be the best it can be (for everyone) when it is being the best and most democratic co-op it can be.

And, in that regard, here’s something you may not have known: democracy in decision-making doesn’t just make for a better co-op. Research has shown that it also makes for a better business, too.

Workers and owners who have been closely involved in the making of big decisions are statistically more likely to prove co-operative in the implementation of the resulting big changes, because they feel an ownership in the decisions.

Can we truly say that this is the experience in “The Weave” at the moment, with all the big changes underway?

And here’s another thing. It’s not just about asking next time – it’s still about asking this time. We still have the massive refurbishment of the Carrboro store to undertake.

We’re all being totally loyal to our “Weave,” our customers and ourselves by insisting that we do a much better job this time of ensuring that we are all in agreement as to what physical changes we want – as well as what changes we want in systems, processes, personnel and management.

I don’t think it’s unfair or biased to highlight the fact that a lot of Carrboro workers have been left somewhat bruised by the experience of all the management ‘musical chairs’ the Carrboro store has gone through in the past year.

It’s not being disloyal, unco-operative or unbusinesslike to say: hey, whether or not you ask us about these decisions, are the decisions themselves what is best for our “Weave”? Is there anything we should be learning from the ones that are, by common consent, mistakes?

Another thing a lot of you have told me is that, although you agree with many of these sentiments, you’re not likely to stand up and shout about them.

That’s ok. That’s why I’m doing the standing. To give you a channel for those sentiments. To give you an opportunity to ask “The Weave” to include a little more democracy in our big decision-making in the future.

So. The short answer to the question, “What’s best for ‘The Weave’ and ‘Weavers’?”, is probably ‘all of the above’!

In other words, and in my opinion only, the best thing we can do for “The Weave” is: first, make sure the big changes really work; and then, vote for more democracy in the way big decisions are made in the future – so that we can all help to make “The Weave” a better co-op and a stronger business.

In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I want to know what you’re thinking. Please feel free to chat with me, or post on this blog. If you have something you want to raise privately, feel free to write to me at: geoffgilson@hotmail.com.

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Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 8:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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