Hotel Common Sense – Philosophy #2


Hotel Common Sense –  Philosophy #2

Or, why the Open Door policy no longer works…

Anyone who is familiar with my full-length columns or shorter blogs knows that I  am a fan of Tom Peters.  There was a period when he may have believed his own PR press a bit too much in the mid 1990s, but I have found his messages to be thought provoking with sound counsel that we need to evolve and change or we will not be around much longer.

Peters, in his first major book with co-author Bob Waterman, took the theme of one of the world’s leading computer companies, Hewlett-Packard, and expanded the notion of truly reaching out to the people in our organizations who are responsible for the bulk of customer contact and building customer loyalty.  They challenged us to look at the symbol of the open door, which has ceased to be a meaningful statement.

The Open Door used to mean an associate (better word for employee) could come to us and ask for help in resolving problems with overtime, schedules, a day off or other personal matters.  I maintain that the Open Door policy, once the symbol of the manager or leader who really cared about their staff, is just not effective any more. The reason I state this is I feel we must realize that the hospitality industry has embraced social media and immediate communication exists among our staff as well as our guests.

While the above situations of personal matters still exist, the reality of today’s hectic pace is frequently more complicated. Drugs/alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, extended families and other more complicated issues are realities of today. While some of us might naively prefer to think there are not serious problems in the workplace today, we need only to look online at the latest “headlines” to see the truth.

The hospitality industry is certainly not immune to the pressures of today’s realities. This industry has ample temptations (bedrooms, alcohol, cash, and “power”) and the added stress of long hours and the pressure to be profitable in periods of diminishing returns can be a manager’s nightmare.

Is there a solution?

Consider the OPEN FLOOR contrasted with the OPEN DOOR.  I am not trying to use a simple play on words, but rather I am focusing on the fact that we cannot rely on our “good intentions” of the open door to be really in touch with our staff.  There will always be some people who seek us out as managers, but the truth is we must take to the OPEN FLOOR every day, beginning today as we read this.  By this, I mean setting our priorities on what most of us say and consider to be our most important asset: our staff. The OPEN FLOOR means something as basic as managers and department heads warmly greeting each member of the staff each shift. It means being in the  kitchen, the laundry, the receiving dock, the security patrol, with the sales team on calls and in the parking lot each day with the people whose livelihood takes place in those areas.

Paperwork, reports and online promotions have their place and need to be addressed and submitted on time. Some of it can be (and should be) delegated like many Embassy Suites try to do with their assistant general managers.  All reports should be periodically reviewed to see if they are still useful (to anyone) or if they have become just busywork.

Howard Feiertag, my friend and co-author of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD, once shared his observations of a downtown New York City hotel.  He commented how EVERYONE (general manager, front desk, bell staff, concierge, F&B, etc.) shook hands with their fellow workers and colleagues when they first saw each other daily.

Like they were “friends.”

Imagine that, and in New York City.

I need  to call Howard and ask him if he knows if they still do this.

MBWA – Management by Walking Around – try it!

Hotel Common Sense Philosophy #2 = Learn to listen more, talk less. Management by Walking Around is Priority #1.

Keys to Success Hospitality Tip of the Week:   Focus on MBWA

A challenge to every manager who is responsible for 5 or more people:  measure your in and out of the office time and at the end of the week, see how much time you spent ACTIVELY INTERACTING with your team.

The goal is 70% of your time out of the office – how did you do?

What will you do next week?

Lessons in Leadership

Lessons in Leadership – By  John J.  Hogan CHA CHMS CHE  CHO

This title is not specifically referring to one company, one brand or one country in the title.

For the past five to seven years, even in a tight economy,  leading developers have been targeting previously under-served countries and the pace has hastened this past 24-36 months. (See this link for specifics)

For this lessons in leadership, I looked to the East for a different perspective and different industry.  While hospitality is not the same as manufacturing, there are parallels in certain people skills.

A former senior managing director of Toyota Motor Corporation and renowned leader of their famous manufacturing system, Masao Nemoto is known throughout the world as a leader in quality control and process optimization. In a sense, he is one of the principal architects of the “Toyota Way.”    His ideas on leadership and quality management are documented, and reveal the profound knowledge Nemoto infused into the day-to-day operations at Toyota, much the same as certain hoteliers such as Statler, Hilton, Wilson,  Johnson, Marriott, Oberoi, Sharp, Carlson, Kerzner, Forte, Ritz and others did in hotels.

Nemoto insisted on a culture of shared responsibility and he believed that critical tasks could not be left to a single business unit, but rather should be a collective responsibility. Nemoto’s point of view says that leaders must lead across the company, not just their own particular area

His beliefs went from the senior leaders all the down to the individual worker on the assembly line, where everyone speaks, insisted Nemoto, not just management. A direct result of this view is the work principle: problems must be solved at the lowest possible level. All employees take responsibility for problem solving, instead of pushing the problems or issues up the line where it likely gets choked in bureaucracy.

In my career, I have worked with and in all sizes of organizations.   I have sat in countless meetings that seem to be stalled with some regularity and have found myself wondering the same things you might be thinking today:  “Are we competing against each other or against the competition?”

Nemoto’s 10 leadership principles:

  1. Improvement after improvement. Managers should look continually for ways to improve the work of their employees. Advance is a gradual, incremental process. They should create all atmosphere conducive to improvements by others.
  2. Coordinate between divisions.Managers of individual divisions, departments, or subsidiaries must share responsibility.  A corollary of this is that upper management should not assign important tasks to only one division.
  3. Everyone speaks.This rule guides supervisors of quality circles at Toyota, ensuring participation and learning by all members. It has also been generalized to all meetings and the annual planning process. By hearing everyone’s view, upper management can create realistic plans that have the support of those who must implement them–an essential element in quality programs.
  4. Do not scold.This was an alien concept to most managers. At Toyota the policy is for superiors to avoid giving criticism and threatening punitive measures when mistakes are made. This is the only way to ensure that mistakes will be reported immediately and fully so that the root causes (in policies and processes) can be identified and amended. Assigning blame to the reporter clearly discourages reporting of mistakes and makes it harder to find the underlying cause of a mistake, but it is difficult to train managers to take this approach.
  5. Make sure others understand your work.An emphasis on teaching and presentation skills is important because of the need for collaboration. At Toyota, managers are expected to develop their presentation skills and to teach associates about their work so that collaborations will be fuller and more effective.
  6. Send the best employees out for rotation. Toyota has a rotation policy to
    train employees. There is a strong tendency for managers to keep their best employees from rotation, but the company benefits most in the long run by training its best employees.
  7. A command without a deadline is not a command. This rule is used to
    ensure that managers always give a deadline or schedule for work. Employees are instructed to ignore requests that are not accompanied by a deadline. The rationale is that without a deadline, tasks are far less likely to be completed.
  8. Rehearsal is an ideal occasion for training.Managers and supervisors give numerous presentations and reports. In a QC program there are frequent progress reports. Nemoto encouraged managers to focus on the rehearsal of reports and presentations, and to require that they be rehearsed. Rehearsal time is used to teach presentation skills and to explore problems or lack of understanding of the topic. Because it is informal, rehearsal time is better for learning.
  9. Inspection is a failure unless top management takes action.The idea
    behind this is that management must prescribe specific remedies whenever a problem is observed or reported. Delegating this task (with comments like “shape up” or “do your best to solve this problem”) is ineffective. So is failing to take any action once a problem is defined.
  10. Ask subordinates, “What can I do for you?”At Toyota this is called “creating an opportunity to be heard at the top.” In the first year of a quality-control program, managers hold meetings in which employees brief them about progress. Three rules guide these informal meetings:
  • Do not postpone the meetings or subordinates will think their project is not taken seriously.
  • Listen to the process, not just the results, since QCs focus in on the process.
  • Ask the presenters whether you can do anything for them. If they ask for help, be sure to act on the request.

If top management is perceived as willing to help with problems, employees are more optimistic about tackling the problems and will take management’s goals more seriously.

KEYS TO SUCCESS is the umbrella title for our programs, hospitality services and columns. This year’s writings focus o- a variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my “HOW TO” articles, HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONS™, Lessons from the Field™, Hotel Common- Sense™ and Principles for Success

Hospitality Tip of the Week™

Focus on Continuous Improvement”

“Improvement after improvement, that has been my guiding principle in my more than three decades of service with Toyota Motors and its affiliates.”                    
Masao Nemoto, Former Managing Director, Toyota Motor Corporation

HE logoSuccess does not come by accident or chance.

Contact us for assistance.

John J. Hogan CHA CHE CHO and Kathleen Hogan  MBA CHO are the  co-founders of, which was created in 2010 to be a resource for hotel owners and professionals as they sought to improve market share, occupancy, operational efficiency and profitability.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAL2AAAAJDA0N2IzNDgzLTZkMWEtNGIwZC1hNGZlLWY5ZDgwZDAyNjdhMw  AAEAAQAAAAAAAAInAAAAJDMwNmJlN2UxLTQyYzktNDdjNC05MmRkLTc0ZjQ1ODU0NDRmZA The husband and wife team are transitioning the original membership site concept and evolving the business model today to a focused resource offering consulting, training, and individualized support to both hospitality and other service businesses.   Services include keynote addresses workshops, online support, metrics measurement, marketing and customer service from a group of more than a dozen experienced professionals.   While continuing to serve hospitality, the demand for these types of services is growing and can be personalized.

John Hogan is also the principal of, which provides a range of expert professional services for hotel owners, including professional development for organizations, training, consulting and expert witness services.

Contact information:  Kathleen Hogan  480-436-0283,

John Hogan 602-799-5375 or

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