Lessons from Hotels

You can find lessons that help you in your day to day work every day if you keep your mind open.  Here’s an example of learning from both good and bad happenings.

I was staying at a training venue with clients overnight.  We were getting ready for a new product launch, and it was our first event – so everyone was a bit tense, of course.  What you need in those circumstances is for everything to be smooth and perfect, naturally.


(from my friends at The Trainers Library / Glasstap

On arrival (great looking place, and easy to find), reception were having trouble with a New Yorker who was taking no prisoners.  He was shouting at the receptionist   “Why can’t I have my print out now” and more, and more.  She used the broken record technique of calmly repeating why she couldn’t, and how it would not be correct until the system had caught up with itself.  She did print something for him, but then told him he still needed to pick the full piece up later.  Calm, self assured, assertiveness personified   I had checked in at the same time and was following said gentleman to the rooms.  He let the first door we came to smash back into me.  I said nothing (being British!) but just held back.  Clearly, reception had handled him so well he was still steaming angry!

Later, in the restaurant we complained that it was cold.  “Heating is broken in here” was the explanation.  They had brought in two tiny fan heaters.  One didn’t seem to be having much effect – so I checked out its settings – and found they had positioned it backwards, so that it was heating the wall behind it very well indeed!

OK – we laughed, but it does start to make you wonder about the whole place.  Are the staff paid well enough? Are there enough of them?  Are they well led?  Are they trained well – or at all?  What will our food be like if they can’t sort out simple things?

That’s the problem with problems.  We all have to sort them every day in our own organisations   And if we sort them well, everyone will notice, and think we are a good organisation to be involved with.  And the converse is absolutely true too.


Mid-Staffs – Francis Report

I subscribe to an NHS managers e mail newsletter / blog.  Roy Lilley is most often the writer – and anyone with an interest in the NHS and its management can subscribe (go to www.nhsmanagers.net)   As someone who works with many different people within the NHS and who are suppliers to it, I find it very useful, interesting and deeply upsetting sometimes.

The Francis report is forensic and detailed (nearly 4000 pages with 290 recommendations).  I quote from today’s e mail – written by Professor Brian Edwards:

“Much of what Francis says makes sense but one wishes he had stuck to the big issues rather than chase down every detail, with a lawyer’s instinct.

It is I am afraid a full week’s read for everybody. Expect dozens of Department of Health working parties and expert groups”

And therein lies the problem.

When so many suggestions are made, everyone can point at someone else, and hide behind a working party or two.  At least some big ideas are there.  No more wholesale changes to the NHS – it stops people doing their jobs.  Good!

The very first recommendation is that patients must come first with care delivered by caring, committed and compassionate staff working within a common culture. 

Are you amazed that this needed to be stated?  When did we think filling in a form to say why you hadn’t done what you were supposed to do was better than doing what you want to do as a caring and committed human being?  It could be you in that bed!

So we have more potential for managers hiding away, and not taking responsibility.  Or measuring the wrong things.  Or sacking whistle blowers.  I have three simple recommendations.

  1.  Incentivise whistle blowing – but sack malicious accusers
  2.  Have a medical majority on all Boards
  3. All board appointments should be for three-year terms and all staff should vote for who should be board members

“In the shadow of the Leader” is a very useful concept to apply to most organisational problems – and positives.  The whole sorry episode looks like a failure of management who showed a complete lack of leadership.  End of.  Heads should roll – and lets stop pointing at the workers first!