(published in french)
Learning to live with competition
The seminar is being conducted in a major Belgian corporation. Michel André-Dumont is being given the task to train almost 300 executives in efficient management. One of the sought objectives is to find cost-saving measures. The prove that a technical and behavioural training can generate millions of euros in savings.
“I help companies make money and allow for continuous development.” Michel André-Dumont is very clear. The manager and founder (since 1995) of the André-Dumont Management Center seems, at first glance, to have a relatively typical business card: “Trained in management, communication and marketing” he could write down. The truth is that he has a totally different concept of his profession than what we usually find. Armed with a solid background earned at reputable training companies – J. M Jouret, CEGOS -, he gets experience early on among the greater industry references (Alcatel, Lhoist, Carrefour, UCB, Fortis, Tractebel, Electrabel, Spadel, Total Fina Elf, etc.). At that level one needs to come up with convincing arguments as corporations have their ‘suppliers’ compete with each others. And it doesn’t help to simply sell your 20-year success formula! This is especially true when expectations become extremely complex, and the allocated time limited. An example.
STEP BY STEP
A major Belgian company (known by the editors) wishes to see its management work differently as liberalisation of industry rules forces them into greater competition. In addition, senior management was entrusted with the objective to decrease operational overhead by 5% within the year. As the larger chunk of these expenses were personnel cost, company managers will have to adapt their behaviour and work methods. Training companies enter: eighteen specialists are being put into mutual competition, three are selected. They will have to convince a panel of ten people. Before making a price quote and offer, Michel André-Dumont meets company managers to understand their needs. He wins and obtains the contract: training 300 managers.
The training has four aims:
- Prepare the context to work in the newly liberalised industry environment.
- Encourage management to reflect on their own function and on the entire organisational process. In other words help management become the engine of their own future and the future of the company.
- Develop the qualities of an efficient manager in all its aspects (ex. becoming a good personnel manager, a material handler, a motivating leader, a driver of the energy of his staff, an open communicator, efficient and assertive, as well as a good time manager, with clear priorities).
- Developing and stimulating management readiness to improve oneself, in all aspects of their professional life.
The training was conducted at all company levels, hierarchically top-down. A pilot session allowed validation of the intervention in practice, via a representative group, including both Dutch and French-speaking participants. “This allows for checking the time constraint, and adapting the contents to the fields of interest.”
The seminar is being spread out over five days, to allow participants (groups of around 12 people) to verify the acquired skills in practice. The contents include the entire spectrum of efficient management: attitudes and behaviour in light of change, base qualities of leadership are being studied and experimented with in subgroups or through individual auto-diagnostic tests. Practical exercises, theory and videotaped role-plays make up the foundations of the training. Technical and financial skills are being developed, including efficient supply management (optimising purchasing, better contracting, improved follow-up), economical reasoning (determining income and expenses, anticipation and determining of investment returns, etc), efficient delegation or staff motivation. In addition, base principles of human resource management are discussed, like the setting of objectives, helping staff to realise them, evaluate the accomplished period, teamwork, conflict management, etc.
Moreover, the 2 ½ day seminar contents include teaching efficient communication, conducting meetings, assertiveness, charisma development en time management. All topics are accompanied by a solid dose of work instruments. A serious and ambitious program.
ANCHORING GOOD INTENTIONS
“Upon completion of the seminar, according to Michel André-Dumont, managers had to, in presence of their board, make individual presentations, including action plans. These included, among other things, making concrete proposals that would allow their entity to decrease operational expenses by 5%. These proposals in money terms generated savings worth several millions of euros, substantially above expectations.” In order to guarantee application of these action plans, they were integrated into individual objective setting being evaluated at year-end.”Our profession, according to the consultant, seeks to translate top-down objectives, and to immortalise the good intentions of staff members themselves by integrating them into individual objectives.” Definitely not a situation with ‘dreamy’ management slogans, after which they lay back and relax: the training must bear fruit, in hard cash.
Several months after the training, Michel André-Dumont organised a follow-up seminar. “These were led by the company’s very own managers, whom we had specially trained for this job. Participants needed to make a report on the practical applications of the acquired topics during the training. They also needed to make an inventory of all obstacles obstructing practical application. This inventory was communicated to the board, who organised a meeting two months down the line, where management was informed about the steps to be taken by the boards to do away with those last obstacles, and respond to their questions and needs.
The cost of this itinerary? “It is an important budget, especially considering the intensive preparations that such training required.” responds Michel André-Dumont, not disclosing more. Do know that the usual daily fees amount to anywhere between 1.025 and 2.500 €, depending on the applicable preparation.
“After each seminar we ask all participants to evaluate our work. If we do not obtain a satisfaction result of 80%, we do not invoice that day.” Michel André-Dumont insists on keeping high the quality of their interventions. Quality is regularly scrutinised by Management Information, an information centre for company trainings, according to the Q*For method standards. Belgian experts evaluating these include the Epsilon Group (the professional association for the profession of trainer) and VOV (Association of Training Managers). In 2001, on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = dissatisfied, 4 = enthusiastic), André-Dumont’s organisation scored an average of 3,63/4 (or 90,75%) of general satisfaction. The company is especially appreciated for the preparation of its seminars, as well as for its trainers and the practical execution of their seminars.
Amongs the selection criteria of the audit, we also find the further development of skills and recyclability of the trainer himself: “André-Dumont Management Center invests a lot in their own education, in order to apply state-of-the-art pedagogic techniques”, according to the rapporteur of the audit. Michel André-Dumont confirms this: “In order to respond to the client’s needs, I spend much time to find trainings with new work instruments. During my last vacation, I trained in a business game. I seek concrete, useful means that participants can put into practice immediately.”