Finding The Time @ The Weave

[I wrote the first draft of this next post for myself back in July, before the Weaver Street kitchen staff moved to the new Food House. But it seems appropriate now, too…

Um. As to the photo. That would be Will Aumiller, brother of Lee Aumiller, who seems to be taking too literally my desire to want to give something back to The Weave…best that no more be said about that… ]

I just had me a moment. It’s ones like this that take me away from my usual self as the fun-loving jokester, whom everyone knows in Southern Village; the guy with the silly grin, and a wit that makes the gang from Monty Python look like intellectuals.

And transforms me into the passionate advocate, that the rest of WSM recognize as being the ‘overwhelming’ dude, who just will not shut up! Ok, maybe I over-state…maybe…I mean, I am passionate…!

I couldn’t find the light switches for the cafe in Carrboro. I stuck my head in the kitchen and a nice Mexican and a really happy Asian guy tried to show me where they were.

Well. I say tried. None of us understood each other. But we got there. And all the while, we were in fits of laughter.

And, in that moment, I got it. I got The Weave. At least, as it is for we workers. As we should be – as a co-op.

We are a microcosm of America’s welcoming melting pot. Except we don’t melt any more. We’re too ‘busy.’ And we don’t welcome any more. We issue guidelines.

Forget 70 page strategy documents. And Task Forces. And John Carver. And philosophy. And Rochdale. Forget me. My Blog. And my Facebook page. Forget the Board. My Candidacy. And any Elections at all.

What being a co-op about is finding the time.

Finding the time to know our fellow workers. Finding the time to get to know our customers. Finding the time to buy the produce that is truly authentic. Finding the time to determine a way to transport food from the Food House other than in plastic bags which do not biodegrade.

And finding the time to work out properly what the Mexican and the Asian’s names were: believe me I tried; but the machinery was too loud – and I’m pretty sure they will always know me as Geeerrrougghhh!!

Somewhere along the line, those in charge at The Weave have allowed themselves to become too ‘busy’ to find the time.

They ought to have found the time properly to ask workers and consumers if they really wanted change, and if so, in exactly what form.

They can still find the time to ask us how best we can implement and communicate the changes already underway.

And they should make sure they find the time to ask us how we would like them now to refurbish our Carrboro store – the foundation store of The Weave.

And I don’t just mean the physical changes. They can and should find the time to make sure that our customers and our workers are happy with the changes that are made to process, systems and personnel.

In particular, they should find the time to choose managers who honor co-operative values and customer service above impersonal, ‘conventional’ management styles.

I think I’ve made a little progress with my advocacy inside WSM. And my happiest moments, in that regard, have been where I have been able to create time for fellow workers and consumers to ask the powers-that-be to pay a little more attention to them.

I helped to open up the 2007 Annual Co-op Employees’ Meeting last year to a half-hour question-and-answer session.

I badgered the Board to set up the Elections Task Force at the beginning of 2008, so that a wonderful group of dedicated workers and consumers could then help to reform our Board Election System.

As a consequence of that Task Force, we have an Election this year that is totally anonymous. And one that is in Spanish, too!

Management wanted to leave it on the basis that those of our fellow workers who have Spanish as their first or only language could ask for a Spanish version of all of the Election literature.

Bless their hearts. I know they’re busy. We’re all busy. But, if they had chosen to be less busy for a moment, if they had found the time, they would have realized (because we are all well-meaning people) that, in the countries from which many of these workers emigrated, it is sometimes dangerous to put your hand up and ask questions in an Election. We should be making it easy for them.

Well. Fate has a way of coming back and stinging well-wishers in the ass! As part of my effort to persuade management that it really wouldn’t take that much time to translate all of the Election literature into Spanish, I sent them a preliminary copy of my Candidate Profile – in Google Spanish!

And yes, there was a hiccup. No-one’s fault. These thing happen. The Google Spanish translation (which was, of course, jibberish) ended up in the first version of my Profile, splattered all over Weaver Street – rather than the ‘proper’ translation!

Ruffin and Linda kindly spent the best part of a day getting all of the Election literature and displays completely reprinted, repasted and redelivered to all of your mailboxes. And you’ll be seeing an explanatory Erratum in this week’s Market Messenger. You gotta laugh…!

So, ‘finding the time’ can have its own pitfalls. But that does not mean that the concept is not right. Like when I persuaded our Board of Directors to find the time to have a 10 minute question-and-answer session at the beginning of each Board Meeting.

One of my mates said: well, 10 minutes isn’t long enough to take them to task for…and I stopped that person.

The point wasn’t to allow someone (er…like me!) to make a 20 minute strategic statement. The point was to encourage one part of the power structure just to find the time. To pause. To take a deep breath. And to look back at the workers and consumers and say, hey, we acknowledge you.

Even if my new Mexican and Asian friends want to say no more than, ‘thank you, it’s really great to be here.’ The Board, we, The Weave, found the time to say ‘thank you’ in return. That’s it. It’s no more complicated than that.

And I don’t mention all of this to bang my own drum. I do it to make a point – that should benefit all of us.

Namely, when all the steam, the fire, the complaints, the laughter, the joy, the sadness, the ‘overwhelming’ that is our co-op is said and done. When all that is put to one side, what we are as a co-op – or what we should be – is about finding the time.

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 7:37 am  Leave a Comment  

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