Virtual Teams

Broken Systems or People?

"trust"I stayed at a top hotel in Las Vegas last weekend. It was a lovely hotel with generally nice staff but what came across as poor cross departmental trust and communication. I won’t name the hotel here but have written to them directly.

Security were disparaging about the check-in staff (and the feeling was mutual), the pool staff blamed the concierge and the individuals we talked to seemed to have no belief that problems would be fixed by other departments.

This looks at first like a people problem. However at the root of all of the problems we experienced was a systems problem.

The check-in process was slow and error prone, leading to problems for security. The system for booking a pool bed required the concierge to call guests before 9 and give the list to the pool area – even though you had pre-booked the bed online. The concierge regularly could not contact guests before 9 so the list was often inaccurate or missing and the people, and the pool got the blame.

I could go on.  The problems were endemic and resulted in lost revenues for the hotel and below average experience for the guest. We responded by interacting with the hotel as little as possible. This extended to hotel management who really didn’t want to know. When we reported problems the typical response was “tell me about it, I reported it weeks ago and “they” haven’t fixed it.”

Now that the problem has become entrenched it is going to be difficult to rebuild trust.

However the place to start is getting the systems right; if the information flow between departments is error prone it will constantly lead to problems and the blaming of others.

A hotel is a relatively simple, single location organization; most of our clients operate worldwide in hundreds of locations and with much greater challenges in communication and coordination.

When we operate across function in this more matrixed way, we must make sure that our integrating mechanisms – the systems, information flows, communication and ways of working – are seamless and transparent.

If they are not then we will fail to deliver a joined up process or service and this can then descend into a trust issue and a blame culture. Once these are established they are extremely hard to change. Much easier to get the systems right.

I will let you know if the hotel responds to my comments and free consulting advice – my hopes are not high.

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