How Does the Board of Our Co-Op Know That the Organization Is Successful?

This is my first newsletter article as President of the Board of the Monadnock Food Co-op.  I am excited to do my part in leading this amazing organization into its next chapter, along with the other 8 members of the Board and the over 3,000+ owner-members.

Someone asked me recently, “How does the Board of our co-op know that the organization is successful?”  That is a really good question.  More than any other organization I have worked with, I can say without a doubt, the Board has excellent information on the performance of our store and its management.

We use an organizational and governance model called Policy Governance, which enables regular and ongoing review of measurable outcomes in all areas of our operations ranging from Planning and Budgeting to Financial Condition to Treatment of Staff and Compensation, and Asset Protection.

At every meeting, we receive a detailed report from Michael Faber, our General Manager, about one of the policy areas. For example, every September, we look at the Treatment of Customers.  The policy requires, in part, that the General Manager be responsive to the needs of our customers and that he ensure the continued safety of our shopper’s experiences.  The GM and the Board together have agreed on several ways by which those policy imperatives will be measured:

—We want our “Customer Count”—that is the number of customers coming through the doors—to increase each year.

—We survey customer satisfaction and seek to have more than 85% of our customers report that they will recommend our co-op to someone else.

—We will register and respond to customer needs and suggestions and measure several aspects of safety including passing all health inspections, tracking and responding to accidents on our property and measuring customer perceptions of cleanliness and safety.

In a similar manner, each month the Board reviews another policy area. We carefully consider data that has been collected over the previous year that enables us to make a judgment about whether our store, under the direction of the General Manager, is in compliance with each policy area. The Financial Condition Policy gets extra attention and is reviewed four times a year.

The Board also pays careful attention to a set of policies that relate to the Board’s own process, and in particular, its relationship with the General Manager.

The Cooperative model is based on delegation of authority – from the owners of the co-op to the elected members of the Board of Directors, to the General Manager.  The use of Policy Governance is how the Board ensures accountability of the Manager to the Owners.

If you have questions about our Board’s work or would like to observe all or part of a meeting sometime, send us an email at board@monadnockfood.coop.

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