When People’s Co-op in LaCrosse, Wisc. expanded two years ago, Michelle Schry, general manager, knew that her operations needed to not only take an enormous leap, but had to function at a high level immediately. The remodel and extensive expansion also included the addition of a new restaurant. A big part of preparing her staff for managing such explosive growth included the development of department plans that brought people together to meet their goals. Schry was concerned that without the expectation of teamwork, departments could become isolated or segmented, undercutting the whole co-op’s ability to thrive and meet the needs of its members and consumers.
She turned to CoCoFiSt, and in particular, CoCoGap tools, to help her manifest a paradigm shift in organizational thinking. By using CoCo tools, managers and department heads could see how their performance is interconnected, engendering a feeling of responsibility, not just for their individual departments, but for the whole store.
“Specifically, these tools were useful in planning for our new store. We were able to see the results from stores the size we were going to be. We learned what changes we should make and probably expect, where we needed to get help from other people.” She said their first year post-expansion they experienced the explosive growth they predicted, yet nobody felt taken aback. “Sure it was a big shift for the managers, dramatic and quick. It could have been ugly, but because we knew what to expect no one was surprised.” Another outcome of this preparation was the mutual support the management team was able to provide each other. “The conscious decision-making process helped keep morale going, that the group’s activities could support other departments.”
In People’s post-expansion world, the CoCo tools have also helped contribute to an atmosphere of continuous improvement that is filtering down to and engaging front-line managers in the planning process, and building incremental improvement plans through a team approach. “It gets people to make decisions together,” Schry said. “You can measure results with CoCoFiSt, but that doesn’t really do anything. You have to take that info and translate it into action on the floor. That’s a very important step in improvement.”
Schry said that the 5+ years she’s been using CoCoFiSt for planning has made her much more mindful of the benefits of using the program’s tools. “Growth can cover a lot of shortcomings. I’ve seen it in our own store, how it can pad poor management.” She said the CoCo tools have helped her look at what could be different or better so the co-op can achieve its goals.
For Schry, it all of this boils down to using the tools to engage people to work together to achieve excellence. In her observation, the stores with the strongest performance, “use CoCoFiSt to bring out the incredible talents of the people around them.”