How and why we redefined our purpose at Co-op Experience

We recently reorganised our teams and expertise so that people with interconnected, complementary skills could work more closely together. We also became the ‘Co-op Experience’ team. You can read about the details in Adam’s post.  

We now have teams and disciplines working together who didn’t necessarily work together before. Because our structure has changed, it’s more important than ever to be clear on our purpose. By ‘purpose’ we mean why each colleague and team is here, and how we’re all contributing to the overarching Co-op mission: ‘co-operating for a fairer world’.  

Working in the open so we’re all aligned 

At the end of last year, we began a piece of work to articulate our purpose. Putting it into coherent words means there’s no room for misinterpretation and we felt this would help each product team, each decision-maker and each individual move in the same direction. 

If we were in the office more often, we’d make posters and pin them up, but for now we’re publishing our purpose on the blog as an easy-to-reach reminder. 

A purpose for everyone, by everyone

Defining our purpose took several sessions over several weeks, but each step of the process was essential. We started small within the Senior Leadership team (SLT) for practical reasons – it’s much harder to facilitate a workshop with hundreds of people. But, our purpose governs the actions of everyone in the Co-op Experience team, so it was essential to give everyone a chance to feed into it. The best way to help everyone unite behind a shared purpose is by sharing a first draft for feedback. 

Here are the steps we took: 

  1. We held a workshop with the SLT within (what was) Digital Product and Design to think about why our team was formed and our role within the wider business. We worked through 3 questions initially which we borrowed from a Hyper Island toolkit
  • What is our job as a team? 
  • What’s our goal? How do we know when we’ve done our job? 
  • What benefit are we bringing to the company and the world? 
  1. We then analysed outputs and held several sessions to focus on the things we felt were lacking from the current purpose, and what we’re trying to achieve as a team. We also noted specific words which resonated (more on this below). 
  1. Then we opened things up. We used a slot at our fortnightly All Hands session to talk the wider team through the importance of having a purpose and our thinking so far. We presented an earlier version of our purpose and asked for feedback from (what was) the Digital Product and Design team. 
  1. We iterated again and presented a refined version of the vision back alongside some behaviours we used to bring the purpose to life. 

Choosing our words carefully 

During the workshops, we kept coming back to certain words that stood out as being particularly relevant to us. These were: 

  1. Expertise – we’re pleased to work alongside people with a range of expertise who each play their part in adding value to our customers and the business. (Adam’s post explains our experts’ skillsets).  
  1. Craft – this is closely linked with ‘expertise’ but it’s more about how we create things. We feel this word highlights the skilful and rigorous process behind creating, fine-tuning, optimising, and constantly iterating products, services and experiences.

We wove both words into the wording of our purpose. Here’s where we got to: 

We’re experts who care about the craft of building valuable products and services.  

We partner with experts within Co-op to focus on the outcomes that matter most to create value for our customers, members and communities, and in turn our Co-op. 

Encouraged behaviours tell us how we’ll fulfil our purpose 

While we were working towards articulating our purpose (the ‘what we are here to do’), we found ourselves considering the behaviours we need to encourage – in other words, the culture we need to nourish – to be able to do what we are here to do.  

We ended up with a set of 3.  

  1. Experimentation – we believe that giving people permission to experiment will help us learn more, more quickly and add more value.  
  1. Humility – so that everybody feels comfortable to contribute in a blameless environment.  
  1. Bravery – so that we can continue to support new and traditional business areas adopt practices that will help them thrive.  
Expanding on what we mean by ‘experimentation’, ‘humility’ and ‘bravery’ at Co-op Experience

These behaviours are Co-op Experience team-specific whereas our Ways of being are a set of expected behaviours across the whole of Co-op. 

We’ll revisit our purpose shortly and we won’t shy away from adapting it when we need to. We’ll share the work we’ve been doing on the Co-op Experience strategy shortly.

Lucy Tallon

Head of Design

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