Meetings on the Friday before Council
The Members’ Council weekend started on the Friday. For a small group of Council members, it started with a Digital Working Group meeting. In the meeting, some members of Co-op Digital talked us through a mobile app they were creating and gave us the opportunity to have a go with it. We also discussed how the Digital team develop the products that they do, including how they do user research.
After lunch, it was time for Council members to experience the ‘Being Co-op’ induction that all colleagues undergo. It was a fun and interactive experience that gave us a chance to see what colleagues are learning. It helps new colleagues to appreciate our rich pioneering heritage and how the Co-op is different, putting members first because they are the owners of the business. There were funny moments too as we might have improvised the odd line here or there!
The Members’ Council meet the Co-op’s new director
Gareth Thomas gave Council a brief introduction to he was and his background. During his time at John Lewis he reviewed what senior managers were doing and made changes to give colleagues more freedom to use their own judgement. Gareth also oversaw John Lewis moving to 7 day opening. He was elected by members in May this year as a fourth Member Nominated Director.
The Members Council hear from Allan Leighton
We were sat in the room, in the basement of Angel Square, waiting for our briefing on the interim results. When Allan Leighton started to address us, we didn’t expect to see this:
That image behind Allan Leighton is a plastic cow in his garden. It’s not any plastic cow though, it’s the plastic cow that Members’ Council members signed before the Annual General Meeting. Allan bought this cow from the Co-op as a reminder of the Members’ Council. His dog is apparently still adjusting to the cow’s arrival.
Allan’s presentation on the Interim Results
Allan took us through the results, business by business and explained that executives’ success was being measured against where businesses were meant to be on the agreed strategic plan. If a business’s profits are not increasing then this is not necessarily an issue. As businesses undergo big changes and investment, the important thing is that they hit the targets which take account of these changes. Food and Funeralcare are doing particularly well against their targets.
Questions and answers with Allan and the other directors
Council Members learned a lot from this question and answer session with Allan. We learned that the Group is operating within the prudent debt threshold the Board has agreed. We also heard about plans for investment in IT infrastructure.
Questions were asked about how we could improve colleagues’ experience of working for the Co-op. We were told that fixing systems would enable the Co-op’s colleagues to achieve better results without having to work any harder than they already do.
Council members also asked when the dividend would be coming back. We were told that the plan was to review the dividend in 2018. Council members were also told that the form which the dividend should take was still under discussion, as an average dividend of £7 for an individual was not seen as a meaningful pay-out.
Presentation and question time with Ian Ellis
The Co-op’s Chief Finance Officer, Ian Ellis, then gave a detailed presentation on the Co-op’s finances which supported Allan’s introduction. Questions from the Council covered the NOMA development in Manchester and the sale of our share in the Bank. We also learned about support for apprentices and how often colleague satisfaction is measured. The Interim results have been presented not only with the financial figures, but with important measures of how the Co-op is achieving social value.
Other Council business
A variety of motions were discussed and passed that covered the formation of committees and the functions of council structures. Then we received a presentation on the local and regional structures. This presentation covered the recruitment of Member Pioneers and progress made on the Local Community Fund. The Co-op is currently looking into the possibility of letting local causes that aren’t registered charities apply.
The Renew Strategy
This was an interactive session led by the Director for Renewal Planning, Rod Bulmer, and the Group Strategy Director, Alison. The session gave Council Members a chance to hear which future projects the Co-op is considering and to feed their own ideas in to the renewal team. Unfortunately I can’t go into detail here as the Co-op’s competitors can see this blog too and the detailed information is commercially confidential. The renewal team are giving Council Members a chance to feed into this strategy by joining small review groups and this should enable us to give meaningful feedback.
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