Calling all Strata Champions
July 8, 2021
Is strata suffering from a leadership crisis…
Why is it so difficult to get strata buildings to make decisions on anything but routine or emergency issues? Many strata stakeholders are frustrated by it but there are few solutions. In this article I revisit some older research that considers the idea of finding, cultivating, and encouraging strata champions …
I’ve recently been sent a link to a promotional video by Wattblock that cleverly associates the single juror who turned the other 11 jurors’ votes from guilty to not guilty in 12 Angry Men to what’s needed in strata buildings to get good things done.
And, whilst of course, the video is intended to prompt strata buildings to decide to implement the kind of energy-saving solutions that they sell [and fair enough] it prompted me to think about leadership in strata buildings and some research and analysis I did with Griffith University in 2013.
So, it seems to me that there is a leadership crisis in strata buildings and strata management [or is that a courage crisis?] that needs addressing.
Research outcomes about strata champions
In 2012 and 2013 I authored an NCCARF research project about how climate change issues affected strata title buildings, the challenges they would face dealing with climate change, and the things needed to assist that adaptation.
After two reference group workshops, interviewing 18 key industry stakeholders and surveying over 450 strata stakeholders, 2 of the 24 recommendations were about strata building leadership as follows:
12 Strata managers should be encouraged to become champions of climate change awareness and adaptation for strata and community title buildings.
15 Create climate change adaptation awareness champions within and outside strata and community title buildings
Whilst those are glib generalised platitudes, some of the comments and observations made in the research report are worth revisiting now in the context of strata building operations and management on all issues and not just climate change.
So, I’ve extracted my favourites below.
The research report is called ‘Adapting strata and community title buildings for climate change’.
15 thoughts on strata leadership, champions, and courage
If we’re honest most strata buildings would prefer that the status quo remains unchanged except for dealing with a few nagging issues that need addressing.
And, most initiatives don’t get sufficient support to get to a meeting or to cross the half or three quarter majority vote thresholds required to advance them. That’s particularly so if they cost money [which they always do].
Why is that? What can be done about it? And, who should be doing it?
I don’t know for sure but here are a few insightful things strata stakeholders, other researchers and I said about that in 2013. Some of them are quite critical and each comment is referenced to the report page number.
‘with the best strata managing agent in the world, if the owners will not agree to his good recommendations, it is unlikely that major repairs or maintenance will be managed efficiently. Similarly, with the most dedicated and knowledgeable executive committee members, if the owners in the scheme cannot come to a majority agreement to provide sufficient funds, repairs and maintenance in the scheme will not be properly managed.’ [pp 27]
‘this likely resistance to change signifies that an important part of this study will be to locate and analyse the views of key strata and community title stakeholders with respect to the problematical dynamics of decision making and to identify any legal, structural and cultural impediments to the passage of a decision that would enable a strata titled community to better prepare itself for the challenges of climate change.’ [pp 28]
‘thus the decision-maker is a satisficer (or one seeking a satisfactory solution, rather than the optimal one). So, rather than assuming that people in S&CT buildings are completely rational, the bounded rationality principle recognises that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice because of the finite computational resources available to the people making such decisions.’ [pp 29]
‘people involved in S&CT buildings had little understanding or awareness of what she described as the “strata beast” saying that: most owners don’t get involved, they don’t understand what’s in their buildings.’ [pp 57]
‘in many cases unit owners know about issues, however, they are often not motivated to find out more or do something about an issue. He asserted: I think in both cases, you really need an ‘in your face’ public campaign to get to those people.’ [pp 57]
‘I think that what strata schemes need is some assistance in identifying what could be done, how much that would cost and what the payback period would be, and perhaps what some of the other benefits would be of doing that.’ [pp 57]
‘Resident managers are strongly placed to influence such matters as, not only do they have high levels of knowledge and understanding of building structure and condition, in addition they frequently live in the building that they manage, signifying that they are highly visible to unit owners and residents.’ [pp 59]
‘It’s difficult to get owners who typically have a very transient view of their property, as in I want to do as little as possible at the moment to retain whatever value I can to be able to sell, therefore it’s difficult to actually make them forward think.’ [pp 60]
‘If you ask the question, do you think it’s a good idea that we prepare ourselves for climate change? I’m sure a large number of Australian’s will say yes, what a wonderful thing. If you ask that of people in a strata building, is it a good idea to prepare ourselves for climate change? Yes what a wonderful idea. Should we do X, Y, and Z, oh that sounds pretty good, now put your hands in your pocket and pay for it. No.’ [pp 60]
‘Interviewee C felt strongly that strata managers would not be strong champions. She felt that too frequently they failed to understand their own business model, and that they had insufficient resources to devote to managing S&CT buildings which results in them trying to provide a one-stop shop solution for all strata title issues. She commented: Well you know there’s this thing of doing something is better than nothing, but they’re not putting any, they don’t have the bandwidth to do any of this stuff. When have they got the time to do it?.’ [pp 61]
‘managers are not exercising leadership in this area, converse – sorry, worse than not exercising leadership, they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of it being additional work for no additional fee and I think they’re also afraid of the politics of it within a strata, where they’re meant to serve the whole and may fall out with some because they choose to back a particular proposition.’ [pp 61]
‘Interviewee R commented that strata managers: “tend to have a mindset of looking for the simplest and cheapest and most routine solution to any problem.’ [pp 61]
‘Look, if you really want to get something done over and above the bare minimum in a strata scheme, then what you need is you need someone who is dynamic and who can present the case at the annual general meeting. And there, in the scheme she was talking about, and in many other schemes, there’s not necessarily someone who has both the motivation and the skills to do that.’ [pp 62]
‘The same inherent problem that we’re having with other management issues of these committees or boards is that just because you bought a unit and you’re still alive, why is that the only qualification of someone to go onto a committee?.’ [pp 62]
‘concern was also expressed with respect to whether committee members act altruistically. Interviewee M commented: So there might be a champion as a person or a champion as a ginger group, but it doesn’t happen because of an upwelling of fellow community feeling amongst owners specifically or people in general that they should do good things.’ [pp 62]
It’s clear many people and organisations like Wattblock are frustrated by strata buildings, strata committees, and strata managers’ lack of leadership or courage to make decisions.
And, the problem exists in relation to many strata title building issues [not just energy efficiency or climate change].
But solutions are difficult as the quoted comments from strata sector leaders reveal in rather blunt terms.
So, perhaps the starting point is to look for and encourage any strata champions when they appear to demonstrate that it’s possible, worthwhile, and perhaps even effective.
It’s a beginning … at the very least.
This article was contributed by Francesco Andreone, Go Strata.