With COVID-19, elevator updates and a lobby redesign, this has been our board’s most challenging year ever. We fervently hope the pandemic will be gone soon, but we’ll still have to deal with facade repairs. And we have a garage renovation project on the horizon. How can we use our experiences in 2021 to help us in 2022 — and beyond?
— Reflecting in Richmond Hill
You’ve already taken a key step: You’ve acknowledged the value of learning from the past. But how? Fortunately, good approaches already exist. The corporate world has “lessons learned” and “continuous improvement.” The army has its “After Action Review.” We can draw on these ideas to define a “Year-End Board Checkup.”
The idea is straightforward. You identify what went well and what didn’t. You consider why things went the way they did. From there, you can identify what you should and shouldn’t do on your next project. Not every lesson will apply. But this analysis can help you repeat approaches that worked — and avoid those that got you into trouble.
Let’s consider your 2021 projects: COVID rules, elevator updates and lobby redesign. Below is one way to approach your annual checkup. Just make sure you have the right board members involved.
What were you trying to achieve? Maybe you wanted residents to simply obey the COVID rules without staff having to be the “police,” and you aimed for all staff to get vaccinated. You wanted owners to pay the elevator assessment and for the project to come in on time and within budget. Your goals for the lobby project might have included avoiding the lengthy arguments and bitter feelings from the last redesign.
What did and didn’t go well in light of those goals? Did people obey the COVID rules, or was it a constant battle? What portion of your staff members got the vaccine? Did you collect the full assessment for the elevator project, or are you still hounding owners? And did you stay within schedule and budget, or did the project drag on? And about that lobby project: Was it relatively calm, or are owners incensed yet again?
Why did you get these results? Maybe residents obeyed COVID rules because board members got on the same page about which guidance to follow, then communicated repeatedly. You gave owners early and ample reminders about the elevator assessment, along with a compelling description of the benefits, so you were able to collect the money. No board member “owned” the elevator project, so no one noticed how much the schedule was slipping until it was too late. You considered a structured way of getting owner input for the lobby project, but it seemed too time-consuming. You saved time, but you once again have hard feelings all around.
What do these lessons imply for future projects? Maybe you need to take more time to get board members on the same page about your approach to the looming facade inspections and repairs. You could consider having co-owners for that project, given its scope. You might want to assign someone to communicate with owners early on the garage project, and you could build in time for getting owner input, adding the necessary steps into your project plan.
Taking a bit of time to do a year-end checkup can save you time, money and aggravation in the coming year. And best of all, it’s free!
Mary Federico serves on the board of her 240-unit Upper West Side condominium. Through her consultancy, Organizational Behavior Strategies, she helps leaders use behavioral science to improve their organizations.