Beyond Platitudes: 5 Tools for Driving Real Change

By Erik Van Slyke Managing Director, Solleva | July 24, 2010

To go beyond platitudes and achieve the operational benefits of broader behavioral change, project leaders can apply five tools that will enable project teams to more rapidly identify adaptive solutions and create more comprehensive success.

Leading change is hard no matter how much experience a change manager brings to the table. Managing change in the hospitality sector is especially challenging because the close interactions and relationships between employees and managers adds complexity that requires extra attention to sustain performance during the transition. Successful change leaders have learned that to achieve desired success, they must use adaptive capability to more effectively work through these project challenges.

Countless studies across a range of organizations have reported that change fails at an alarming rate:

  • Researchers at the Ken Blanchard Companies report that 70% of change initiatives fail or get derailed (includes projects such as implementing new technology, rebranding after an acquisition, and launching new customer service programs, among others)
  • The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey on Current Program and Project Management Practices found that 50% of all change initiatives fail based on measures of customer satisfaction, business value, schedules, budgets, and quality, among other factors
  • The Standish Group's Chaos Report reports 44% of projects are challenged (late, over budget, and/or less-than-expected results) and 24% fail (cancelled prior to completion)
  • A survey by CIO magazine reports that 62% of IT projects fail to meet their schedules, 49% suffer budget overruns, and 41% fail to deliver business value.

Even when there is a formal plan to manage the human side of change, efforts can fall short. Organizations may "complete the project," but often miss opportunities for broader operational improvement and customer satisfaction. This point was underscored in a conversation with Margaret, a human resources executive for an international hotelier and the project sponsor for an HR technology implementation. The project was over budget, behind schedule and receiving poor reviews from executives, line managers, and employees.

"We started this implementation using a well-established change methodology and built a plan we thought would support the project. We were really caught off guard, however, by the volume of issues that came up that were not directly related to the project. Many of them were more about organizational politics than the technology. And since we thought those things were out of our control, we just put our heads down, focused on the immediate scope and executed our plan. By not knowing how to get underneath the issues, and prioritize and identify solutions, we limited our impact and the problems just kept growing."

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.