cook-timeline-415Erik Hahn, vice president of the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op in Grand Marais, Minnesota, was thinking that his board needed a tool that could help them examine the past up to their present moment in order to envision the future. On the back of a roll of wrapping paper, the co-op’s general manager got out a Sharpie marker and set to work creating a timeline of past events. By the time she was finished, it was twelve feet long! Once it was finished they posted it on the wall. They had been thinking about an expansion, but were not sure if it was the right direction, especially since some people were apprehensive about it. After seeing the co-op’s life cycle on the timeline, the board could see that growth was definitely a part of the co-op’s history through the years.

“We could see a pattern of change and growth,” Hahn said. “It helped us accept expansion as logical and natural.” So the board had the timeline put up in the co-op and got feedback from the members. “They looked at it and pointed, remembered things. It was a useful tool for bringing people along for the next logical step,” he said. “It was like looking at rings on a tree. You could see it was time to expand again. People found comfort in seeing how things change.”

One thing Hahn remarked on was that with every change in history people could see that the co-op got stronger with each consecutive expansion. “Not that everything was always perfect, but we’ve come out stronger each time.” Now the co-op is planning for their expansion in earnest, and what they learned from using this tool is that it helps people visualize the big picture, and show many people have made the co-op what it is today.

Visit Cook County Whole Foods Co-op online at www.cookcounty.coop.

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