Ten Key Lessons: ARAMARK Building Community

June 25, 2009

6th and final post in the series (posts one, two, three, four, five) on our journey to create ARAMARK Building Community, the company’s signature community initiative to strength the capacity of the country’s local community centers.

Here are a few of the lessons we learned on our journey to create and execute ARAMARK Building Community:

Lesson #1:  Assemble the team.  Build a small group with diverse attributes and perspectives that includes strategists, communicators, “sales” people, process managers, company loyalists, and newbies, from both inside and outside the company.   Anticipate change and evolve this team deliberately as platforms and programs evolve.

Lesson #2:  Involve a range of internal stakeholders in the development process.  Seeking out and incorporating the knowledge and opinions of others who may later participate or drive the program can help to create a sense of shared responsibility and celebration of success.
Lesson #3:  Have an internal champion.  Having an advocate – or several from throughout the company – can provide access to the people and information you need, and help win over the skeptics.

Lesson # 4: Don’t go it alone.  Partner with organizations that provide complementary core competencies.  Collaborating with non-profits and other service providers who are experts in their fields allows the company to focus on what it knows and does best – and helps to build collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships.

Lesson #5: Build your stump.  To get buy-in, your team must be able to create a clear and quick way to tell “the story” of what the program is, how it will work, and how it will provide value.  Get your team on the same page, capture the stories and supporting materials, and realize that you will spend at least six months storytelling.  

Lesson #6:  Move with deliberate speed.  Don’t rush the process.  It takes time – much longer than one might expect – to learn, obtain buy-in, and build relationships with the right partners. Investing the time to listen and learn is critical.

Lesson #7: Build relationships to increase impact.  There is nothing like working side-by-side for the common good to bring disparate groups of people together.  Use the opportunity to bring employees together, and to invite in clients, prospective clients, government officials, and community leaders around a shared purpose.

Lesson #8: Build a fence line.  Design platforms and programs that provide flexibility but allow you to leverage and aggregate results and activities…and tell a story.  Clearly communicate overall strategy, guidelines and outcomes but design so that constituents (businesses, employees, partners) have enough flexibility to utilize unique strengths. This flexibility inspires pride of ownership and allows for adaptation, creativity and localization.

Lesson #9: It’s always evolving.  Treat each interaction, and each activity, as an opportunity to learn.  Once the program is solid, invite others with special skills to build upon the foundation of the program in ways that might be replicated throughout the organization. 

Lesson #10:  Take rest stops.  It’s a long process!  Taking the time to stop and recalibrate allows for many things, including listening for feedback.  Don’t get caught in one facet of development. You will need to constantly re-assess the status of elements such as tools, enablers, and funding.  Pull over for a few weeks, settle and check the diagnostics!

Good luck!