Case Study: Programme for the Executive Committee of a Caribbean Hotel Chain

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The Commonwealth Secretariat sponsored the Chairman of CBS to conduct a one-week workshop on business strategy for Caribbean CEOs in Barbados. The success of this programme led to an invitation to conduct an action learning, Oxford University (UODLE) accredited diploma for one of the leading companies in Barbados. The success of this programme led to a two-year, in-company MBA programme with the largest company in the Island which included the Chairman and the Executive Committee of a hotel chain which was part of the above Company. The MBA was accredited by the Management School of Bradford University.

The pinnacle of management development is to do action learning programmes with the senior management teams of organisations.

The pinnacle of customised, in-company, development programmes is to do action learning programmes with the senior management teams of organisations. This programme in Barbados gave the CBS faculty the opportunity to test their model of cascading the business strategy into a total organisation within an action learning 'envelope' consisting of workshops, group and individual projects and personal development plans all customised to the needs of a single business.

We cascaded the business strategy into the organisation within an action learning envelope which gave renewal impetus to existing initiatives such as TQM and a stalled performance management system.


The Group Project

This programme began with the Chairman and his management team defining and cascading the corporate strategy as their group project. This refined their mission to become the premier all inclusive resort chain in the Caribbean and defined a strategy implementation plan based on a total quality approach. The group project defined the corporate goals, core values and critical success factors, analysed the competitive environment, the future prospects for tourism in the Caribbean, the marketing and pricing strategy, their requirement for capital to fund the expansion programme and how to empower their staff to deliver the strategic intent. The results of the group project became the Company's business strategy which involved the successful acquisition of two further hotels in the Region and a significant increase in profitability of the existing estate.

The group project became the new business strategy of the organisation. The programme 'welded' the directors into a high performing team and facilitated the introduction of a TQM culture and a significant expansion of the business.


Individual Projects

Each member of the Executive Committee was given an individual project to improve the overall performance of their part of the total organisation, starting with defining their annual operating plans, ie their business improvement plans (BIPs). Their attempts to define their BIPs involving their management teams in aligning their strategies to the corporate intent were discussed in regular management/group project meetings chaired by the Company Chairman. In these meetings, emphasis was placed on the learning which had taken place at both the organisational and individual levels between meetings.

Flow charts of all the key processes (e.g. customer service and quality control, inventory management, food and beverage management, room services, engineering services, HR, finances, IT etc) were constructed and used to remove waste and improve quality and delivery, with emphasis placed on solving the key cross-functional problems that emerged. For example, the service given by engineering, finance and HR was questioned regularly within the overall focus of improving customer satisfaction and delivering service excellence. These flow charts were compared to the processes of major international hotel chains which the participants benchmarked as part of their research.

This emphasis on integrating the individual projects (the BIPs) of each director led to a marked improvement in the cohesion of the executive committee and its cross-functional activities. This was strengthened by the sensitive use the CEO made of each director's BIP in assessing their personal contribution to achieve corporate goals. The key here was the success each director was having in cascading the key elements of the corporate strategy down to the "shop floor" of their directorates. That is, were they delivering an effective performance management system?



Workshops

During the programme specialist hotel/tourism management inputs were dovetailed with general management inputs on action learning, leadership, TQM, process analysis, customer care, performance management competencies etc, all of which were intended to help with the group and the individual projects. These inputs were given by the Chairman of CBS, the Programme Director.

During each of the 12, one-week visits to the organisation made by the Programme Director, individual supervision was given to help the delivery of personal development plans (PDPs) featuring improvements in technical and managerial competencies and comparisons made with competence systems and process performance in other leading hotel chains. During the initial months of the programme significant performance improvement among all of the participants was reported by the Chairman, who himself became a lot more consultative. These improvements continued during the rest of the programme.



Results

  • The group project report was adopted as the basis of the hotel's new business strategy which featured growth, customer satisfaction and cost control all of which improved during the programme. The performance management system driving the strategy cascade was reinforced and regular meetings took place between the Chairman and his team to discuss performance improvement. Regular appraisal meetings with staff at all levels were introduced and sustained.
  • The new strategy led to the purchase of two additional hotels, existing rooms refurbished, an increase in the number of repeat customers, new systems of managing key processes, first and second line management strengthened and a total quality performance management culture introduced.
  • Each participant's (ie members of the Executive Committee) individual project featured improving the overall performance of their part of the organisation. This included aligning their department strategies with the Company strategy, implementing improvements in the processes based on the detail process flow charts and the TQM approach and focusing on developing their management teams and first line managers.
  • Individual effectiveness was significantly increased through the PDPs and the emphasis on learning from experience. For example, the Chairman became more consultative and as a result the Executive Committee meetings became more harmonious and productive.
  • Learning in the group project teams became noticeable after the second workshop when sufficient trust between members had developed and individuals were prepared not only to admit to mistakes in their operations but also deficiencies in their management style. This led to more coherence in the top management team, the removal of cross-functional problems (eg the service given by engineering, finance, HR to the line) and a greater willingness to learn from the benchmarking research done on the processes of other hotels.

All those who presented their projects and PDPs to the University assessors achieved the Diploma and the MBA. The quality of the projects and PDPs were of a high order. For example, the Chairman's individual project entitled the 'Development of the All-Inclusive Hotel Concept in Barbados' ran to 149 pages and included a literature review of global and regional tourism, an analysis of the all-inclusive concept and a comprehensive 80-page analysis of how best practice could be introduced into his business.

The manager of one of the existing hotels in the chain who was a member of the Executive Committee and on the programme produced an excellent 220-page individual project entitled 'Achieving Corporate Excellence in the Operations Management of an All-Inclusive Hotel'. This included a strategy which aligned with the corporate strategy, a literature review, an analysis of the TQM concept and the Baldrige assessment model, an analysis of operations and HR best practice in hotels and an excellent treatment of the key factors which contribute to performance excellence in a single hotel.

Another participant, who gained a distinction in his MBA as did the above two, produced a 272-page project of exceptional quality, entitled 'Leading Change through Business Strategy'. The highlight of this project was his understanding of the role of a participant observer in collecting valid data, his analysis of the literature on strategy formulation and his application of the strategy cascade to his part of the organisation.

During this 2-year programme, the faculty of CBS built up a detailed understanding of the hospitality and international tourism business and we developed the diploma further which became accredited by the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate (UCLES). They reinforced this with further programmes in Barbados which included a 3-year, part-time, action learning based Doctorate (DBA) programme for 20 Caribbean politicians and senior executives which focused on leadership of small island states and the role of tourism and customer service excellence in particular. We also created a partnership in National Development through Tourism with the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association with the active support of the Minister of Tourism.

It is our intention to continue building on this experience in tourism and hotel management if these are key areas of development in the National Development Plans of a country we are working in.