Traditionally, leaders develop a strategy behind closed doors, but the Co-operative Group is turning this around and building a new remit based on public opinion.
The boldest statement yet for change at the Co-operative Group is its Have Your Say campaign. It is a signal that Euan Sutherland and his executive are ready to break with the old – and want input from people across the UK to shape the new.
Euan Sutherland says this is an “unprecedented move for an organisation of [this] size”.
The conventional approach sees board and executive work closely with a limited number of stakeholders. The purpose is to set out a clear vision, outline a plan to get there and show that the business is in a position to deliver. Appearing in control is everything.
But the Group – to demonstrate it is run by the people, for the people – has turned this on its head. Have Your Say can be outstanding if the right questions are asked and the input used effectively.
But there is a risk that, rather than getting the support of some of its most engaged stakeholders – employees and active members – the Group will alienate them.
Many are already dismissing the campaign as a PR exercise. It doesn’t talk about the values and principles or even the Group’s role in being an ethical pioneer. Others believe the strategy has already been decided.
Whether this is true or not, this newfound collaborative approach to leadership needs to extend to those who feel closest to the Group.