Last of the Summer Wine

I gave up drinking wine a long time ago. So, to be honest, I can’t say that I care if the white wine we sell is ice cold or is as hot as the surface temperature of the planet Mercury.

But some of our customers do care. And for the life of me, and them, I can’t work out why we have so drastically reduced the range of white wines we sell cold – right in the middle of summer.

And from what I can gather, neither can our customers, nor those of my work colleagues who sell them the wine, at all three of our retail units.

It’s not that the issue of cold white wine is the be all and end all of The Weave (although I am not diminishing its importance to our customers and our wine people).

It’s that I sense that the decision-making process about the cold white wine is a metaphor for what many see as being wrong with decision-making overall in our co-op at the moment.

Those who made the decision to reduce the range of cold white wines did not ask our in-house experts before the decision was made. (And those experts would be our customers, and those of our workers who know what they like.)

And even now, no-one has made any real attempt to explain to those affected by the decision why the decision was made.

There are many of us who see this pattern of decision-making becoming an alarming and increasingly frequent occurrence in The Weave these days.

It’s as if an all-round ‘bunker’ mentality has settled on some of those in the upper reaches of our co-op decision-making.

And the thing that really irks so many of my work colleagues – all of whom truly care about the service we give our customers – is that so many of the ‘bad’ decisions, that are resulting from this seeming ‘bunker’ mentality, could so easily be avoided. If only we ‘experts’ were asked for our advice.

Look, it is no longer a secret that all is not well. We are in the middle of a deepening recession, and the expansion is…um…not expanding…?

So, why the ‘bunker’ mentality? Why the state of denial? Why not simply share with us (workers, consumers and owners) the full extent of the damage? Why not ask us what we think could be done to put things right? I say again: we are the resident ‘experts.’

Much has been made of the fact that, as a co-operative, we have an advantage over conventional stores. That’s totally true: the biggest advantage we have is the loyalty of our workers, our customers and our owners.

But that loyalty is only an advantage until it is frittered away. And we risk frittering it away when we don’t trust each other, don’t tell each other the whole truth, and don’t genuinely ask for help.

The loss of that loyalty will lead to a lowering of productivity; a loss of morale; a drop in sales; a squeeze on profits; a hit on the dividend; a departure of staff and customers; and a divesting of ownership – and frankly, we are seeing all of these already.

I, for one, as a Worker-Owner, no longer regard this unfortunate mindset as being the prerogative merely of Operations. The Board has a duty to protect my investment and my job. And that is why I am raising the whole issue of our troubled Expansion with the Board at its meeting on August 20th.

I do so with a certain reluctance, but also with a positive spirit, because I truly believe it is not too late to rescue the situation. I believe that, with the right guidance from the right Board, we can open up the mindset within our co-op, open up the channels of communication and the process of decision-making, and make The Weave a better co-op and a stronger and more secure business, once again.

In the meantime, could we please take this opportunity of showing all Weavers that we can at least put one thing right? Could we please restore the full range of chilled white wines in all of our retail units? Before it is too late to drink The Last of the Summer Wine?

*******

[I know it’s not easy for some to talk about their personal experiences in The Weave at the moment. Whom do you trust?

Some of you have taken the opportunity to speak with me. And I thank you. I’ve listened, I’ve heard, and I’ve learned a lot.

The formal channels of communication within The Weave are not perfect at the moment. I’m one of those trying to improve them.

In the meantime, I’ve never broken a confidence. And it’s important that we share as much as we can, and that the Board knows as much as is possible. It’s important for everyone.

To be honest, if you find it difficult to talk to me, I won’t be offended. But please have a word with one of our two Worker-Owner Directors. That’s what they’re there for. And it really will help the situation. Honest. That’s all I can say, really.]

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Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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