Like any business, cooperatives need capable management at all times. Emergency management succession planning is essential but despite this planning, sometimes a co-op finds itself in need of a steady experienced hand to manage the co-op during a GM transition. Interim General Managers (IGMs) provide stable and competent management allowing the board of directors to focus on hiring. Here are some steps and things to consider if your co-op needs to bridge the gap.
For a board, assessing the current situation is a good place to begin.
- Assess the issues and challenges the co-op is facing. Does it have the staff talent to effectively address these challenges?
- Assess the depth of existing talent in the co-op and the senior management team. What would be the impact on operations by removing 1 or 2 people from their primary responsibilities?
- Assess the (former) GM. What were their strengths and weaknesses? Did they develop a culture that should be maintained or changed?
- Assess the need for change. What are the advantages of having in an experienced leader that has seen a wide variety of operations and is willing to make difficult decisions?
Next consider what an experienced IGM can bring to the co-op.
- Operational stability while the board focuses its effort on the new GM search.
- A calming effect. Solid ground to hold on to.
- Skills, leadership and ability to adapt to the situation. based on experience with co-ops of different sizes, maturity, structure and conditions.
- Financial knowledge.
- Effective communication between the Board and GM to create a strong working relationship including board reports and effective policy monitoring.
- A fresh perspective. Ability to spot problems that had not been obvious because “it’s always been done that way”.
- Setting clear expectations without preconceived notions of employees.
- Respectful personnel management focused on staff and systems development.
- Identify staff development opportunities to build internal strength and capacity beyond the IGM’s stay.
An IGM will need access to all the historical and current information needed to successfully lead a Co-op. To prepare for a potential IGM situation, be sure there is good documentation of … everything! Even with good documentation, IGM jobs almost always include surprises – new priorities often emerge as issues are uncovered. IGMs are resourceful and quick to engage with the work of the Co-op able to get a lot of work done quickly to strengthen the co-op.
An IGM will assess the cooperative’s operational and financial conditions, the staff, and current plans. The IGM will then develop and implement improvement plans as needed to position the co-op to hire a talented GM and prepare for that transition. An IGM is accountable to the Board of Directors and will expect to have decision making authority with the boundaries of board expectations.
Our IGM’s move into the town and remain during the full contract. IGMs can also assist with the transition to a new GM offering coaching, guidance and remotely access as needed.
Grab and Go Solutions is a resource from CDS Consulting Co-op to provide easy to implement solutions to common issues facing food co-ops. Watch for future releases tackling a wide variety of topics including HR, governance, member engagement, safety, store and growth.
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