Board-Management Relations and Management Reports

Food co-ops, with the exception of a few worker-managed or collectively-run businessess, typically entrust an elected board of directors to govern the business, and these boards in turn hire and delegate to management the actual business operations. That makes the board’s expectations of management, and management reports that address those expectations, among the most critical parts of a successful cooperative.

Accountability runs in both directions in the board-management relationship. “Setting the tone for workplace culture starts with the board’s treatment of its general manager,” notes Marilyn Scholl in an article, “The Board Role in the Accountability Stream”:

In examining board and management working relations, some co-ops can benefit from recognizing what Art Sherwood describes as “Power Triggers, Seesaws, and Handcar Cooperation”:

(Manager job descriptions have been posted to CGN by several co-ops, and some of those that are available are attached to this wiki page.)

Co-management is sometimes found in food co-ops, whether by choice or by default, in many cases pending the hiring of a single manager. “The Perils of Co-Management,” by Carolee Colter, covers that situation and why most co-ops have evolved toward a general manager:

Manager reports are covered in “Meaningful Metrics,” by Todd Wallace:

Monitoring and evaluating the manager: In “Monitoring the Manager,” based in a Policy Governance framework, Mark Goehring suggests that policies are the same as board expectations, and the first step is writing them down:

For introductions to the challenge of evaluating the manager, here is a 2009 article by Mark Goehring and Carolee Colter, “Evaluating the General Manager”: Additionally, for a useful summary written prior to widespread adoption of Policy Governance methods, here is a 1987 article, “Assessing Management Performance,” by Karen Zimbelman and Geoffrey Smith:

Manager pay: Here is a 2011 article by Carolee Colter, “Updating Trends in General Manager Compensation,” (see pdf version for the charts).

Cooperative Board Leadership Development:  Through its board of directors training as well as extensive online resources in its Cooperative Board Leadership Development (CBLD) program, the CDS Consulting Co-op has deepened food co-ops’ understanding of co-op governance: At the CDS Consulting Co-op website, visit the CBLD Library, which has a wide variety of co-op governance resources available for download both as text and as online recorded workshops: Several of the CBLD resources specifically address management reports to the board of directors.

[See related wiki pages under Board of Directors / Governance.]