Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Communications Commandments for Cooperatives

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Communications Commandments for Cooperatives

Article excerpt

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

No doubt, most of us have been presented with this philosophical, or perhaps rhetorical, riddle and considered the potential answers. Evidently, many have approached the question, as a basic "Google search" yields over 7.4 million responses.

Borrowing from the falling timber conundrum for application to cooperative management:

"If management makes a policy decision or sets a strategic goal for the cooperative, does it make a difference?"

It's a question that compels a management team's honest evaluation and introspection.

When you net them down, the fundamental functions of cooperative management are to: make decisions, allocate resources and pursue goals, all in an effort to serve members. But, how do we go about gathering input to make the best choices, to gauge if resources are appropriate, if targets are set right or achieved, or at the critical bottom line, if the cooperative owners were indeed benefited?

COMMUNICATION--up, down and sideways; fresh, current and creative; before, during and after; two-way; planned, extemporaneous and impromptu, is the key. It must be a planned and integrated part of every management decision if it is to have a positive impact.

Throughout my career, and particularly during a relatively brief time in the electric cooperative world, extraordinary professional Communicators in the form of mentors, advisors and co-workers have had great influence on my approach to management. In an effort to share their wisdom, and to hopefully signal a note of gratitude for the help and recognition afforded me, the aim here is to relay lessons-learned with the goal of communicating some tidbit that may aid co-op management in putting "trees in the forest" that will generate unquestionable, resounding benefits when harvested.

Cooperative Commandments For Effective Communication

"Best practices" communications commentators will likely suggest starting with a process of market research, assessment and benchmarking, introducing revisions as the results of the process dictate. But for cooperatives, our Seven Cooperative Principles provide the guidance we might need.

Obviously, member ownership and control are critical and prevalent. Digging deeper into the roots of cooperatives, and for the sake of getting a new or renewed start as a leader, a healthy gnawing on Principle Number 6, "Cooperation Among Cooperatives", is in order. Keeping that principle in mind, management is urged to "Edit Moses".

Looking to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament as an outline, management might consider these slightly revised commandments:

Commandment #4--"Remember thy weekends & keep them holy ... by having the CEO columns, releases and speeches completed well ahead of deadlines." Communication--your communication which relays your message and perspective, has got to be a priority that is on time and on point so that the professional Communicators can generate maximum impact.

Commandment #8--"Thou SHAG steal ... communication ideas and solutions from other cooperatives ... as long as you give them credit, at least once, in some form."

With this directive in mind, Flint must give due credit (and not in a footnote!), for one of the best ideas ever implemented to channel current news and events directly to linemen rooms and remote office break rooms. The "video newsletter" is a mode of communication that catches the attention of tough-to-reach audiences with information that is electronically transmitted and updated weekly. Thank you Florida Keys EC! The implementation of the Florida Keys concept has proven to be extremely effective for us.

Commandment #10--"You SHALL covet your neighboring co-op's system, equipment and employees ... and taking ONLY what you need, when you really, really, really need it. …

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