Maud Alluin Ndour is the director of MAN & Co, a management consulting firm. Her firm has developed a method that aims to further the adoption of energy renovation projects by the co-owners of housing complexes; a means of making a tangible contribution to the expansion of sustainable housing in our towns and territories… This original application of the techniques of change management to an audience of private individuals is well worth relating….
AM+DA : Maud, can you tell us how you came to lend your management consulting skills to the development of sustainable housing?
MAN : Well, one day an architect friend of mine told me about his difficulties. He was expending enormous amounts of personal effort, in vain, explaining to potential customers the benefits, especially financial, of energy renovation initiatives. I was struck by the similarity between the questions that he was asking himself and those that many managers find themselves asking when faced with resistance to change from their team members, despite having spent a long time explaining the reasons and the justifications for the transformation process that has been set in motion. And so the idea came to me of applying the tools and methods that we use for facilitating change management in a corporate context in order to remove the barriers that people tend to raise with regard to energy renovation projects. . AM+DA : Why was he experiencing difficulties in convincing co-owners of the benefits of energy renovation, and what advice did you give him? MAN : I asked him to explain how he went about trying to win over his potential customers… and I realized that he operated from an “expert” standpoint: he worked on his project alone, making adjustments here and there and polishing it up until it was perfect, before presenting it at a general meeting of the co-owners. In the weeks leading up to the vote, he sent out a presentation brochure full of attractive arguments that he felt were indisputable, in order to persuade them to adopt his project. It was clear to me that what was lacking in his approach were two essential ingredients for acceptance, i.e. prior consultation of the people concerned and then building the project with them. A project that is presented as being signed, sealed & delivered, no matter how pertinent it may be, will have difficulty in winning admirers. Backing for a project needs to be built up in advance, over time, not just sought on the day of the vote. AM+DA : Can you tell us more about your method? MAN : You have to start 10 to 12 months before the meeting at which the vote will be taken. The first thing to do is to bring to light the negotiable part of the project. Then, we compare this against the expectations and requirements expressed by the co-owners, who are invited to attend workshops on a voluntary basis. The objective is to bring out positive intent from the co-owners, e.g. improving your levels of comfort, boosting the value of your property, securing a return on your investment … This process has a dual virtue. First of all, “the” project becomes “their” project – a shift from acceptance to ownership. Secondly, the ideas expressed in the workshops provide food for thought for the architect. They enable him to improve the proposed solutions, to bring them closer to what people are really looking for. People are much more willing to buy into a project to which they have made a contribution and which also meets their expectations and needs… AM+DA : Your approach is certainly appealing. But let’s just turn our attention for a moment to a reality principle. The consulting service that you are offering adds a certain extra cost to the project… MAN : Sure, but it is a modest cost given the importance of what is at stake. For large co-owned building complexes, the price of an energy renovation project can amount to several million euros and the preparation of the dossier often requires up to a year’s work by the consultancy. If the application fails, all this time and effort will have been for nothing. But if it succeeds, months, or even years of work lie ahead. Let’s face it, anyone who has ever attended a general meeting of any kind has already seen a well-presented project be swept aside by a few sentences of a speech by an opponent of the project… and then ultimately rejected! When this happens, it is more often than not due to a lack of preparation and prior consultation with the stakeholders.