Think Like A Hotel | How To Create An Operational Excellence Culture


I recently stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel. As I entered the revolving front door, it was like walking through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia. I had arrived in a magical world with soft velvet everywhere, cool tunes piping through the sound system and really posh toiletries in the bathroom, I’m sure you get the picture.

The check in experience was excellent. I was welcomed by name (how they knew it was me I still don’t know), offered a nice coffee and slice of cake while checking in and my bags had magically been whisked off to my room while I was at the desk.

And on top of that there were some really nice little touches – for example I was given a loan iPad during my stay that acted as my hotel guide, and invited to join the hotel reward scheme which bagged me a free newspaper and wifi code. Not ground breaking ideas but I thought what a great check in experience – everything just clicked. I was a very happy customer!

Trying to anticipate customer “moments of truth” which left unchecked can lead to operational challenges and ultimately unhappy customers is a challenge faced by most organisations.

And this raises a dilemma – how do you ensure everyone in the business can ‘connect the dots’ from the starting point of capturing customer needs to appreciating how these flow through to all of the key business functions in order for them to work together seamlessly? The outcome being a brilliant service to the customer in the most efficient way possible.

This is Operational Excellence – and it’s easier said than done.

So how do you create an operational excellence culture and ensure everyone in your business truly gets “it” and follows this mindset?

Well, there is a whole suite of options for various models to follow, such as Lean Six Sigma, ISO 9001 and various other hybrid approaches involving these and others such as change management and employee engagement approaches.

They all need certain strategies, tools and techniques to follow to embed them into the culture in order to succeed.

And there are a few questions to consider if you want to introduce an operational excellence culture into your business. For example;

  • Is the business culture ready for it?
  • How equipped are your people to lead operational excellence?
  • Are your leaders prepared to adjust their mindsets if necessary?
  • What kind of approach is appropriate?
  • What has or hasn’t been tried in the past?
  • What kind of appetite do the top team have?
  • Do you create a big programme and put lots of your people on training courses?

The list goes on.

So while the business figures these kind of questions out, there is a way where you can start to get the culture ready for operational excellence:

Think like a hotel and start small.

Think of the journey the customer makes from entering, staying and renewing with you as if you were running a hotel. And then keep focusing on what value they can get in each of these steps.

The check in experience I had at my hotel will have involved breaking it all down into manageable steps and making each as efficient and customer centric as possible. This “back to basics” thinking can be transferred to any other business.

It is very tempting to go “all in”, create a big noise in the business and get a big programme up and running. I’ve tried this in the past and it can become a double edged sword. I recommend assessing whether you feel your business is ready for that approach.

But you don’t need to go big bang to start bringing an operational excellence approach into your business. Here are a few strategies that have worked for me:

  • Start small – by identifying 1 or 2 issues that would benefit from improvement and bringing together a small team to work on them. This could be something that cuts across a few departments, and will bring benefits to the customer.
  • Avoid focusing on your “crown jewel” processes or issues first. Learn from your first few projects and then you can circle back and hit these hard in future phases. You’ll learn what will work and what doesn’t work. Also, try to keep in check how much you focus on, avoid trying to boil the ocean with lots of projects, just keep it to a couple that can make a real difference.
  • Try to avoid any initial issues requiring system changes, IT teams are likely to be already maxed with requirements which may delay the project.
  • Don’t brand it or advertise what you are doing just yet, just get on with it.
  • Set a challenging target for the team and complete the project within a 90 day window so the project has a realistic timeframe. Help the team win by giving them bandwidth to work on the project. Make it feel special to people.
  • Use simple project management techniques to track the project, apply “back to basics” type thinking to solve the problem at hand and try to get some early wins under the team’s belt to get some traction and inspire the team to push on.

In this way you can start to quietly bring in operational excellence into the business, (even if it’s been tried before) and you can demonstrate “the art of the possible”.

So think like a hotel and start small by standing in your customers shoes as they enter the revolving door to your business. Creating an operational excellence culture is about everyone in the business being involved to make sure your customers have a brilliant experience and keep coming back again and again – choosing you to buy from.

May I offer you a complimentary newspaper? 🙂

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