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

How we’re making sure teams’ objectives align with the Co-op vision

We’ve found that although colleagues are aware of – and have often contributed towards – their immediate team’s objectives and understand how they feed into the overarching Co-op vision, there’s often less visibility around how a wider team’s work aligns with it. 

So for example, the Co-op Membership team is made up of people with expertise in Operations, Marketing, Insight and Finance, as well as us here in Digital. It’s a huge team. Each of these areas of expertise has its own set of objectives but up until recently there hasn’t been much visibility between areas of expertise. We’ve always believed it is better to be joined up than to work in silos and universal remote working has forced us to make a conscious effort to do this better.

How might we align better?

At the beginning of last summer, the product community of practice invited Martin Eriksson, (Founder of ProductTank and Mind the Product), to speak to us. He introduced us to the ‘decision stack’ – a framework intended to “connect the dots from vision and mission, through strategy, objectives, and principles to every single daily decision.” From top to bottom it asks how we are going to do something, and from bottom to top it asks why we are doing it.

It sounded like it would go some way to solving our visibility problems on the Membership team so I spoke to people from all areas of expertise to find out what their objectives are. 

When I had a list of objectives plus metrics on how we’ll know each has been met, I looked at how we could present them alongside several other connected elements such as strategy and principles. Even though few people are involved across all elements at the same time, it felt important for everyone to be able to see both the big picture, the details and the links between them all in one place.  

So, in Figma (later Miro for ease of visibility), from top to bottom we stated:

  1. Co-op vision – “Co-operating for a fairer world”. 
  2. Co-op visionary principles 
  3. Co-op Membership vision – “A membership that makes a difference for me, the communities I care about and a fairer world.”
  4. Co-op Membership strategy – “A frictionless experience that motivates Members to participate by showing the impact that trading with Co-op has on their community”
  5. Co-op Membership ‘north star’ (this is the number we care about above all other metrics)
  6. Co-op Membership objectives (including all areas of expertise within the Membership team).
  7. Objective metric (how we know we’ve been successful).
A screenshot showing the 7 different elements described.
Here’s a screenshot showing the 7 different elements described.

We now call this our ‘Vision and strategy framework’.

Our hope is that by making the flow of priorities 
from the top of the organisation transparent, we can empower teams to deliver work 
that meaningfully contributes to our organisational vision. We hope it will help us make sure that we’re 
all working towards common goals.

Showing the thing 

When we showed what we’d done to the people with digital expertise in the Membership team, the feedback was that this was a useful way of thinking about how vision and principles and objectives are connected – in other words, the organisation’s goal and targets set within individual teams. So we shared it more widely: first to the rest of the Membership team and from there it’s been picked up by senior management and other teams have used the framework to align their work too. 

The general consensus has been that this framework has made it easier for us to:

  • zoom in and focus on the immediate priorities
  • zoom out and put work in context
  • have a single accessible source of truth
  • share progress and update figures

How we’ll use it in the future

The framework should evolve to reflect what we have learnt, and any shifts in direction the business area or team might take. To make sure we have rigour around each framework, we are looking at how we can visualise these strategies alongside each other and how they are joined up by broader objectives on an organisational level.

To update the framework, someone has to add information and data manually. It has been a challenge to manage this and creates a bottleneck if someone is uncomfortable using Figma or Miro. In the next iteration, we will look at how we can automate live metrics and targets.

Like everything we do at the Co-op, the user should be central to these frameworks too. We are looking at how we can bring user experience outcomes alongside our business objectives to ensure we are accountable to the people who are ultimately affected by these strategies.

We’re really interested in hearing how teams of all sizes stay aligned. What do you come back to time and time again to keep you on track?

Nate Langley, Principal designer

You’re invited to Open Data Manchester, at The Co-op

We’d love to see you, in person or on social, at our home 1 Angel Square, to hear from Group Digital Services Director, Tom Loosemoore about the cultural challenges and opportunities of being an open organisation.

Open Data Manchester

Designing open practices within any organisation is challenging. Through Co-op Digital, The Co-op is embracing a change in organisational culture and the way that it interacts with the outside world. Open data and the free flow of information is a vital part of this change.

To help this transformation, some of the team responsible for developing Government Digital Service (GDS) have recently joined The Co-op, here in Manchester and Tom Loosemore is one of them.

At this event, with Open Data Manchester, Tom will discuss what it means to become an organisation that embraces the opportunities of openness, how to help your organisation have the confidence and capability to do it and how promoting openness and more intelligent use of data can benefit organisations and the wider community.

Food and refreshments will be provided, book your free ticket here.

If you’re unable to attend, follow @CoopDigital on Twitter for live tweets and live streams on Periscope, which you can find out about, here.

WHEN Tuesday, 1 March 2016 from 18:30 to 20:30 (GMT) – Add to Calendar

WHERE The Co-operative Group – 1 Angel Square Manchester M60 0AG – View Map

Why we’ve deleted 20 websites

At the beginning of 2015 the Co-op had over 250 websites. Every department, campaign and anything with a budget wanted their own domain. As our online presence expanded, our resources stayed the same. Trying to maintain content quality and accuracy was futile.

We failed to ask ourselves one simple question… do we really need them all?

When is it time to delete a website?


For the last five months we’ve been busy removing websites. Deciding which ones stay or go is an emotive process. To keep emotion out of it we asked ourselves the following:

Are people still using the site?

Some decisions were easy to make. After looking at our site analytics, 12 websites had less than 100 visits in the last year so they were removed.

Stats showing no one is visiting the Santa Dash site
The number of visitors for our Santa Dash campaign site had flat-lined

Is the content still relevant and up to date?

I’m sure the Co-op isn’t alone in creating websites for marketing campaigns. Part of any campaign should also include how effectively you close it – unfortunately for some this was never done. They’re done now. We also created one page summaries for three sites which were still receiving over 500 unique views a month such as the 2014 campaign “Have Your Say”. In a few more months we’ll review the content again and press delete if we think it’s right.

Is it best for our members maintaining XYZ site?

It takes time and money to run a website and ensure they meet user needs. We therefore need to decide if this time and money is better employed elsewhere to benefit our members.

Are we duplicating content?

The problem we have at the moment is trying to manage very similar content across multiple sites. We’re now looking at ways to combine sites with similar content/themes and you will see the results of this soon.

Does the website fit with our digital strategy?

With Mike Bracken joining the Co-op to lead Digital we now have a clearer vision of what our Digital estate should be.

As a result we’re now starting to see tighter controls put in place to decide when a website should be created.

Lessons learnt

In a big business like the Co-op there are a lot of great ideas all vying for attention. But how do you decide what’s important?

Unfortunately we’ve been too keen to say yes to everyone instead of spending the time to decide what is best for our members and users.

If you look at our main site,, we have 114 links on the homepage. 101 of those links go to another website or micro-site. It’s very easy to get lost in a maze of websites.

What are we doing now?

It takes time to review and potentially delete or migrate a site. So far, we’ve removed 20 sites and work is underway to delete/migrate another 12. For each we have to look at the user impact and how it affects the Co-op. I’m sure there’ll be more changes to come as we continue to evolve with our member needs.

The better we make our digital estate the easier it will be for our users to understand what we do and for our members to experience digital co-operation in action.

@peterbrumby, Digital Communications Manager for the Co-op

Transformation observations

We’re going for it. Shifting a massive chunk of our digital development programme to continuous delivery. That gives me butterflies!

Having run a team of ‘UXers’ that all ache to work in a proper Agile way has been a challenge. We often found ourselves reliant on a super-human delivery manager (namecheck: Victoria Mitchell) to hold back the mountains of Waterfall documentation and ‘sign-offs’ to enable us to work in our Agile bubble. It didn’t really work.

By bursting that bubble and working alongside the business, engineering and operations we are immediately… but I’m not going to espouse the virtues of that here, there’s plenty bigger brains that have done that.

I just want to share some early observations from a UX team perspective as we make that change:

1) We all do UX

We don’t call ourselves a UX team anymore, we are part of a design team. We are all responsible for the user experience: marketing, IT, designers, shop colleagues, call centre colleagues, CEOs… it’s how we work together that delivers the experience. I believe our artists-formerly-known-as-UXers have a key role in evangelising their ingrained user-centric principles across the business. Ensuring everybody is focused on delivering a service that meets people’s needs.

2) Lose the IT and Business/Marketing divide

Being in ‘Digital’ I have often been the buffer between Marketing and IT, the former feeling restricted and stifled, and the latter feeling criticised when all they want to do is keep the business safe. Not only does an understanding have to break out, but the boundaries need to be removed completely. Have multi-disciplined teams, delivering specific products not departments emailing huge documents over ‘the fence’ ensuring they are safe from blame of failure. We now have a team of Engineers, Delivery Managers, Business Analysts, Interaction Designers, Content Designers literally sat side by side delivering the ‘thing’.

Our multi-disciplined team in post-it heaven

3) Find, empower and trust super-smart decision-makers

Another massive change is required to make this work. The multi-discipline team can’t do their thing if the business isn’t able to provide decisive direction at the same pace. This is where our next challenge is. We need rapid, smart decisions and for that, rapid, smart, decision-makers who are trusted and empowered to take responsibility for their product. Enter product managers, new roles to the Co-op, but very much needed to ensure that the transformation happens. It is these folk that will play a vital part in ensuring the Co-op can transform now, but continue to help a modern Co-op respond rapidly to members’ and customers’ changing needs.

Are you a product manager? Contact Polly Haslam to see if there’s an opportunity for you.


Why digital made me feel old then quickly young (middle-aged!!) again…

I started my working career in 1992 and in the 23 years that have followed I’ve seen a huge amount of change. None has been more profound or significant than the emergence of the internet and subsequent digital capabilities in how we work.

I’m enormously proud of what we’ve achieved in the Co-op over the last 18 months. We’ve taken a business from near collapse to one that with hard work and a focus on doing the right things will become once again one of the UK’s most treasured things. I can’t wait.

To make this dream a reality we’ve recognised the need to embrace the “digital  revolution” not just in terms of the services and products we offer our customers, but in changing our ways of working. Excitingly we’ve managed to recruit some of the very best people in the world to lead our thinking in this area and help us not just catch up, but get miles ahead of the competition. From “Slack” to “Bimodal Agile”,  our lexicon has changed.

Whilst very exciting, I’ve got to be honest and say it’s also filled me with fear. At 45 years of age was I about to become one of those outdated Execs who lived in a past world that I’d seen and observed in my earlier career? Good for a few words of advice here and there but basically living in an outdated world. For the first time ever I started to feel old.

Six months on and I feel young again…….

Throughout my career I’ve always believed that if you do the right thing for the customer and make the business vision/ strategy/ objectives simple for colleagues to understand then you’ll not go far wrong. I’ve also always said that a great business “creates value for the customers that they’re able to share in”. I’ve realised that the “digital revolution” simply makes this easier to do and puts the customer at the heart of the business even more than before. In that context it makes customer centricity even more important and people who think that way even more valuable.

So yes, the lexicon has changed (a sprint has nothing to do with Linford Christie but is a quick piece of work with an outcome, a “slacker” isn’t someone who is lazy but someone who communicates via a more effective tool – the list could go on) but what matters has become even more important and makes it more difficult to succeed if you don’t get it right.

So as we leave 2015 and look forward to the new year, I’m excited. Not just by the new digital team, but by the realisation that I’m not old and out of date just yet and my views, principles and ways of working are more important than they’ve ever been.

Enjoy Christmas with your wearable technology. I’ll be catching up with re-runs of Tomorrow’s World!

Rod Bulmer, CEO of Consumer Services.

Consumer trends in 2016 – What’s hot

Hi everyone.  I’m Zuna Farooq, External Intelligence Manager (Strategy) at the Co-op – yes my job title is as brilliant as my job!  We track long-term consumer and market trends and relate them back to what it means for the business.

zuna blog - 1

Last week, we attended Future Foundation Trending 2016 (#TrendingFF16). Here are my takeaways from the day:

Solo living

26% of UK households are single-person, forecast to rise.  People feel more comfortable doing things alone and tech will cater to more fulfilling solo experiences. Consumer Virtual-Reality launches in 2016 and FutureFoundation predict that we could see the “arrival of VR-fuelled selfish media”.    For Food, single pack sizes continue to gain in importance, and for consumer services, single-person propositions.

I tried the Oculus Rift headset and OMG it’s indescribable!  I used to smirk at VR references but until you try one, you just can’t imagine how REAL they feel.

zuna blog - 2

Careers are not for life

More people are retraining and have “slash” jobs – e.g. writer/photographer/blogger.  Life skills will continue to be important, and consumers will value help in developing and building these.

Consumers are more impulsive

Last minute plans, celebrations etc. all bring opportunities for home meals and drinks.  #FOMO (fear of missing out) is rising and has the potential to be used as a marketing tool to tap into consumers.

Cashless stores will be big

Paying will be a thing of the past and as FutureFoundation described it, shopping could feel more like stealing. We have Apple iPay / contactless in all of our stores and we were first in the market to launch applepay – great that we are leading the way on this trend! 2016 will see consumers quickly think of cashless as norm.

Emojinal intelligence

Think John Lewis ads, using emoticons, and making customers genuinely happy.  This will be significant for our brand, Digital proposition, Membership and our customer service.

Here’s the future canvas from the end of the day (you can download a better version from the Co-op intranet page – sorry colleagues only!)

zuna blog - 3

There’s much more from the day which can be downloaded from the Co-op intranet pages under the Industry tab, or drop me a message. Packs include information on consumer pursuit of pleasure vs. control and a rising trend around brands rating consumers, plus how consumer lives are changing because of tech.

You can also follow me on twitter: @Zuna, External Intelligence Manager at the Co-op.