Art Sherwood Reimagines the Strategic Planning Process

Art Sherwood Reimagines the Strategic Planning Process

  |  April 14, 2022

After seeing how the co-op world shifted away from in-person events during the pandemic, Columinate consultant and leadership strategist Art Sherwood wants to leverage the lessons he learned over the past two years to help co-op general managers be more strategic about multi-year planning. Sherwood has recently launched the Cooperative Strategic Leadership (CSL) program, an annual subscription course that utilizes different modalities to help co-op leaders build practical plans that are meant to be put into action every day.

The program aims to streamline the strategic planning process, improve overall efficiency, and produce a higher quality product for leaders.

Tell me more about the Cooperative Strategic Leadership program.

The program contains three major components:

  • First, there is the online course that acts as a strategy “primer.” It includes individual and team reflections.

  • Second, there are facilitation videos, worksheets, and instructions that lead through the process of formulating a multi-year strategic plan.

  • Third, there is one-on-one and group process guidance/coaching.

This powerful combination makes for what I believe could be the next-level approach to the strategic process.

Who are the clients/target audience?

My initial focus is the general manager (GM). The initial materials I have created focus on the three-year strategic plan. Of course, this is adaptable to include important folks such as the board. Interestingly, I am already getting client feedback that indicates that building program offerings that would benefit boards is super-important too.

Boards are such an important part of the cooperative strategic process, and to be sure they have what is needed feels important to me. Everything points to this being the case.

I’d love to hear more about the process of developing this program.

The material has been the culmination of learning while I worked with cooperatives and other common-good organizations to do what most call “strategic planning.” I developed the concept and process around Cooperative Strategic Leadership a number of years ago and did creative work and shared this via multiple articles, videos, and the like. A lot of this seemed to resonate and continues to do so.

Why are you launching this program?

I’ve worked with dozens of boards and GMs on a variety of issues that somehow always come back to strategic thinking, leadership, and planning and action. It was clear that many co-ops struggled to do this type of work. Then, when the pandemic hit, it allowed me to consider the “how” of what I do.

I asked myself, “Is the highly in-person facilitation work that I am doing going to actually work for folks?” And, more vulnerably, I asked, “Is the way I have been doing things really the best I can offer?” Maybe there might be a way that is more effective and potentially even more cost-effective. Thus, this program.

I am super curious as to whether we can do this more effectively, both in terms of performance and cost. While I knew my previous work was impactful, I always felt there was room for taking things to the next level.

What makes this program unique?

I am not sure there is anything else out there like this that focuses on cooperative and common good strategic leadership. I have a great amount of expertise in this area, and I have used that expertise and experience to create what I hope will prove to be a practical and effective process.

Sherwood has already engaged with co-ops to pilot the CSL program, including Whole Foods Duluth. Though Sherwood has been working with that co-op on and off over the years, General Manager Sarah Hannigan has a leadership team that is made up of a mix of new and seasoned managers with different levels of exposure to Sherwood’s work.

The CSL program has allowed Whole Foods Duluth to engage with strategic planning in a new format that Hannigan commented has been “a great and unique experience.”

“Rather than having someone fly in for a couple of days for a strategic planning session and leave us with some flip charts and materials that don’t end up getting put into practice, we have this ongoing supportive relationship,” says Hannigan.

Sherwood’s dedication to strengthening the core team and his willingness to work with the co-op to meet their individual needs also have great value. Though Whole Foods is only halfway through this initial iteration of the program, the co-op is already seeing returns on investment and professional growth within its leadership team.


Interested in learning more about the Cooperative Strategic Leadership (CSL) program?

Contact Art Sherwood at artsherwood@columinate.coop to reserve your spot. It is an evergreen program, meaning you can join at any time of the year.

Have more questions?

Get in touch with one of our consultants.

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