As a co-op prepares for an expansion project, clear and effective communication within the co-op is essential for building alignment and commitment. Here’s the short version: Have a plan. Work the plan. Evaluate the plan and revise as needed. Read on as the CDS Consulting Co-op Expansion team fills in some of the details.
What kinds of communication will be needed?
- Information about the outcomes of the project and how it relates to the long-term vision for the co-op
- The steps and stages to an expansion project and where your co-op is at in the process:
- Assessing Feasibility
- Preparing for Construction
- Preparing for Opening
- Image-building and visual communication throughout the process. Help people “see” the possibilities.
- How the expansion will address current issues and problems
With whom do we need to be building strong communication systems?
- Board and management
- Management and staff
- The co-op and its owners
- Outside support and contracts with consultants, designers, contractors, city officials, project managers
How can we ensure effective communication?
- Have a designated point person who is in charge of communicating between the different groups, like board to GM, GM to staff, GM to general contractor and design team, co-op to community, etc. Ensure that everyone knows who the point people are.
- Have alignment on goals ahead of time so you have a point of reference record.
- Develop branding guidelines to ensure all outward communication is branded consistently and cohesively.
- Ensure continual feedback loops are in place between customers and staff, staff and management, between management and project manager and/or general contractors and designers, and between GM and board.
How to manage delicate balance between maintaining confidentiality and being transparent?
- It is most important to be transparent about:
- The process of expansion planning and progress,
- The roles of each person or group within the process,
- The image and outreach goals of the co-op to reach new populations of the community.
- It is most important to maintain confidentiality where appropriate, including:
- Business competition
- Personnel decisions
- Real estate matters
- In a co-op expansion project, it is especially important to agree on the process of complete confidentiality, especially in the Feasibility Stage (related to real estate issues) and until the co-op has the new site under control with a lease agreement, purchase agreement or option agreement, contingent, of course, on getting full financing in place. It will require having and following a code of conduct for the leaders of the co-op.
Now you will be ready to enjoy opening day with everyone committed and aligned because they understand the plan.