Conflict has been a feature of Britain’s largest consumer co-operative, The Co-operative Group, over the last eighteen months, as it has tried to turn round the business and build consensus on a new way of working.
We see conflict in all organisations, large and small. It happens for the same kinds of reasons – people have different views about what to do or how to do it, they are subject to different pressures, they suffer emotions such as jealousy, fear and anger and they compete to get their ideas accepted by those around them.
There are always reasons for conflict, sometimes good reasons. It is how you handle conflict that matters. In a co-operative, the organisation is ultimately a tool for people to come together, so sustaining mutual and respectful relationships is typically the place to start.
The Co-operative Group has been through tough times before in its long history and has typically emerged stronger and more agile as a result, but the key test is always whether challenge brings people together or pulls them apart.
Some years ago, working with a range of organisations focused on the food sector, including the Plunkett Foundation, Country Markets, FARMA, Sustain and the Soil Association, we developed a series of resources, authored by the respected co-operative developer Kate Whittle, on the theme of ‘from conflict to co-operation’. They have been in good use ever since.
Included are a series of cartoons that should perhaps be required reading for all those with strong views on the future of The Co-operative Group.
Drawn by Angela Martin, here is a selection of my favourites here below.