Learning a new process, concept, or theory isn’t easy. People learn in different ways. I can remember 6th grade with vivid detail, especially math class. I have always been good with numbers. A few weeks ago I was sitting with my Mom and we were going over some of her accounting. She was astounded that I could rattle off sequences of numbers or amounts without looking at my notes. I don’t know why. I just can ‘see’ them. But word problems at that time, stumped my young brain. Until, I drew out what was being asked on paper into a cartoon. I wasn’t approaching the problem correctly for my brain. I wasn’t asking myself the question: What is the problem asking me to do? I was looking for the numbers to crunch. I was fixated on the numbers. I knew I had to calculate something, but there was more to the puzzle. I know that now. I had to visualize what was being asked.
I’m a visual thinker.
Research has shown that we are all visual thinkers (Buzan)
Therefore, grasping knowledge and acquiring understanding, is best ‘seeing’ the process, visualizing the process and actually immersing yourself in the process.
Hence, why I love projects.
And scenario based projects are one way of accomplishing that goal.
This semester all of my classes have a form of project, and I will be posting helpful hints here, and in our learning management system to aid them in completion.
The success to any project is not to wait till the last-minute and know that you are the one that needs to complete it.
You are either accomplishing this as an individual or as a group. What does that mean?
Each has a dynamic element. Know your role and research it.
Thoroughly read over the requirements. Clarity begins by asking questions. Don’t assume anything.
There is a formula for the process–the action of completion, but each journey is unique.
Budget time. Don’t wait till the last-minute. I’ve said it twice and that means something.
It is quality, not quantity.
Research to gain factual data.
Examples are great, but this is your original work!
Don’t go in with the attitude that you just have to get it done. If you put in 50%, more than likely it will be reflected in the work delivered.
This could be used for the future. Think of it as a tool to demonstrate to potential employers your capabilities and skill level.
Do not let dysfunction ruin working relationships. I am a mediator and here to help negotiate, navigate the waters.
Keep backup copies in three different places. Back up often.
So, this year I’ve taken on the duties of the People Process Culture Endowed Chair here at Stout. I am looking forward to delivering on previous contributions to organizational behavior as well as some aspects that are pertinent in today’s global society. Basically, developing the ‘service heart’ concept. So, what is PPC and why study a concept? It isn’t new the idea of addressing the needs of all your stakeholders. The concept has been around in my industry of tourism and hospitality since man traveled afar to find food. Pretty old. We just haven’t address solid nomenclature till the 20th century.
The first real historical incidence in my industry of this concept that I can find to date is Delmonico’s of NYC. My first encounter with this type of philosophy in a practical sense was with Marriott. The first time it is part of the core values of the company and written down was when the founders of the company, Bill and Alice Marriott, opened their root beer stand in 1927 in Washington, DC.
Yet, the simplicity of the concept, the beauty of it, is breaking down that beauty to its complexity and reconstructing it to understand that brilliance. It might not always be the same as the original because relationships have these nuances, but there must be core values that are consistently apparent. What is that quotation from The Last Samuri at the end of the movie:
Katsumoto:The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life. [With his dying breath] Perfect… They are all… perfect..
What is Katsumoto trying to convey? Perfection doesn’t really exist because everything holds perfection. There is a sense of perfection. Now don’t jump to conclusions. Perfections have flaws and are really never perfect because everything is inherently flawed. That is the beauty of life. Embrace that perfection/imperfection, that flaw in all of us and see it for what it is. Be open and receiving. Okay, coming down from my higher position, down the stairs and taking a seat (think Socrates here).
Organizational theory, PPC is important to study because business is about managing not just the tangibles, but the intangibles. The human element. All stakeholders and that interaction. It is dynamic, ever-changing, and always in flux.
I have always loved puzzles. Why am I bringing this up? Well, understanding about the interplay of interactions between individuals is a unique puzzle.
Let me explain this illustration. Bear with me.
You go to the store to buy a puzzle. If I don’t know anything about this puzzle or its degree of complexity, I examine the box more closely. I look at the number of pieces, the intricacy of the picture and try to make a decision. Maybe, I buy it on aesthetics alone. I am really into cool castles at the moment, so maybe I’m looking for something towards my interests. I want to find one that I desire. One that tugs at the hedonistic value. The outside of the box presents a really pleasing picture of a place I want to visit or be a part of.
Cue Forrest Gump:
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”
Now lets tie that into organizations and perhaps, searching for that best employer. Working for that right firm. On the outside everything that is presented to you is a very pleasing picture. All bright and shiny. You’ve heard great things about this company. You’ve done some research and examined some public documents. Yet, you are on the outside looking in…not until you delve further into that company will you understand the depth of complexity. The tangible and intangible. The products, the processes, and the human factor.
You open the box.
Are there instructions to understand the complexity? Sure on the front. You have a picture of how it is supposed to be. But there is nothing on how to start or how to navigate the waters. Everything you view is from your own vantage point, your point of reference, your point of view. That point of reality has been shaped, morphed, changed, or reshaped with experience. Don’t discount your experience. Life is an experience, good and bad. It is how you use that experience that is also important. Learn from it, strive to overcome challenges.
Cue my own mantra:
“Challenge life, don’t let life challenge you.”
In real live, you have submitted a resume and gained an interview. You run the hurdles and are offered a job. You accept, and everything is right in the world. That day has come, you pack your lunch, and hit the bricks. Open the door and walk in. And faced with a new environment. Somewhat daunting and scary. Change always comes with fear and joy. You’ve left the ordinary world you knew, and crossed a threshold into another realm. Embrace it.
The goal of the box is to reconstruct the pieces into some sense of organization to recreate the picture. The objectives are the plan of attack to reach that goal. Facing a mountain of uncertainty, the pile of pieces is the first challenge. Where to start? Every puzzle is different. Yet, more importantly, at this point, what questions do I ask in order to understand how to approach this project before me.
The first day is introduction into your new reality. This isn’t university anymore Toto. It sinks in possibly as you are indoctrinated into this new social system, this new community that you might just have a limited awareness.
Set aside now the tangible, the products. As stated before, there are two avenues to follow, one readily apparent with some degree of mysticism (the production process of tangibles), and the other that has more of mysterious element–the human interplay. A host of personalities to decipher and understand. How do I make sense of this complexity? For some, this reality comes with a greater sense of diversity that they have ever encountered before.
Whoa, hold on. This isn’t diversity. Not even close. This is so much more. Wait, be patient students, we’ll get to this in a bit.
As a professor and researcher, I am aware of the craft of my job. I study it. I pick it apart to gain knowledge. I had an epiphany in my early thirties that I had a limited awareness about life, both personal and professional. I had to set aside what I thought and deconstruct my known puzzle. Those pieces weren’t enough. It never is…
Look for that Obi-Wan among the multitude of faces and become his or her apprentice. Ask someone who is successful in that job that may have been hired in the last two years and find out who that person is, because you will need a guide. Sometimes you have to go it alone with just your gut and intuition. (How do I know what is right and wrong?)
Cue Game of Thrones, Ser Davos conversing with Jon Snow after he awakens from the dead:
Davos Seaworth: You clean up as much of the shit as you can. Jon Snow: I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed. Davos Seaworth: Good. Now go fail again.
Life and work doesn’t always come with instructions. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and try. Some approach the puzzle and just start, uncovering the patterns along the way. Others, before even starting, study and look for patterns. I have always adhered to visualization techniques and using my imagination to envision different scenarios. I am a big fan of using scenarios when teaching. Hence, why I like to do projects.
Is there a right way or a wrong way?
When faced with developing the light bulb, Edison didn’t get it the first try. It took him more than 500+ to get to the finished product. What did he learn, what was his saying and someone else…”I found 500+ ways how not to invent a light bulb.”
Sometimes you jump right in with great enthusiasm and you get stuck at a point. A curse slips past your lips as you realize you need to start again. That this road is not the one you should have taken. Hopefully, it isn’t too bad that you can’t recover, because in any industry, especially my own recovery from disgruntled stakeholders could mean the ability to capture or not, revenue, today or in the future. And in tourism, hospitality, compared to other industries revenue isn’t like manufacturing, cars, construction, etc. We have a 24 hour perishability. If we don’t capture revenues within a 24 hour period, it is permanently lost. We can’t gain it back.
We want repeat business and loyalty. And not just for revenues. Want want to create a family.
That disgruntled stakeholder might be your employee. How do we create longevity? How do we create a working environment where people love to come to work and want to be there?
So, for some this process, this exchange, this dynamic interplay of people is highly important. Be prepared for anything. As I tell my students, you have to be prepared for anyone that walks through that door. You can’t think for a moment that everyone is the same. Therefore, you have to ask questions of your employees, your peers, your mentors, your managers, your CEOs, and yourself what you should or shouldn’t do. That is how you develop intuition. Always asking questions.
Then you can find a path to put the puzzle together. Not everyone will accomplish this goal the same, so you have to be prepared for everyone’s point of reality. You all have goals and objectives, even common ones to get to the end result. It is wondrous to see how this happens. It is fantastic to learn how this happens.
The more knowledge you gain from studying PPC, organizational behavior and from your experience, the stronger leader and manager you will become. The finished product will be fantastic and everyone will love to be in the same place.
I finish this post with two quotes from two football coaches I greatly admire. Vince Lombardi and Joe Paterno.
“Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader.” ~ Vince Lombardi
“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” ~ Joe Paterno
Meld them together and you have one of the answers to that epiphany I had in my thirties. It was always about me up to that point in my life, and I wasn’t progressing as my peers. I was unhappy in my daily life. I looked for rewards before the end of that current journey. I wanted something concrete before I had even created it. I wasn’t a true leader. I’m not even one now. I still don’t have all of the skills or talents and probably never will. But preparation is vital for me, for anyone to be better. And studying this process as well as others is that preparation. It will help you attain that combination to be a leader or even just a member of a group that is trying to achieve something.
Every day I’m asked by students about finding employment, the right job for them. They slip into my office, some tentatively, others boldly, and with frustrated snarls and whispers, ask, “How do I find a job?” Or they sigh deeply and say, “Help me find an internship? I can’t find one.”
I get it, I’ve been there, I have a trunk load of tee shirts sitting at home.
Finding that right corner of the world, that right niche is hard.
Especially in today’s complicated world.
And that is when I tell them, hopefully, with a bucket load of optimism, persevere. The right job, the right position is out there…and yes, there is always that lingering ‘but’, that momentary pause that tells them there’s a catch. Sometimes you have to step outside the box, and your comfort zone, to find that niche. To find that corner, and occupy. I really think we need a one credit course on job hunting in today’s employment environment.
It’s brutal out there, and you have to take the punches in order to gain what you so desire. That hasn’t changed since we could walk upright. I then shift, and ask them what are they passionate about. That is when I get the blank stares, the lack of emotional response, and emptiness. My mind drifts too at this time period back to the days when I was first in grade school, and the teacher asked every one of us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I wonder what I answered, because I really can’t remember. The earliest point that I do remember is a 4th grade essay, and I was into the National Park System, John Muir, and such. I devoured a book on Muir that year, taking it out of the library several times. I can still picture the library at Southmont to this day, and roaming the stacks of treasures.
So then I go into concentrations, and what they are taking. I ask them why are they taking this area, and I get the usual replies. Most days its I want to be an event planner. I want to plan weddings, and then I hit them with the cold reality of day. Competition is hard, and getting to that point, difficult. But it is doable. You just have to think outside the box. And this is where I get frustrated, because I already know the answer more than half the time. My next inevitable question is, “Have you done research on the career? Where you can find jobs?”
Nothing, nada, zip. Big fat zero.
I’ve data mined for information, and I realize then that students need a bit of boost, a shove to find resources. And not only research about their career path, but about themselves. They need to dig deep and find out that intrapreneur within themselves. They need to dig deep, and soul search. Set some goals and objectives and obtain them.
And remember nothing is set in stone. There is always that ability, and opportunity to change.
I found a great video on Linkedin, a nice presentation on Intrapreneurship by Nancy Lyons of Clockwork. Hopefully this might help them in that step…
Key to understanding the industry, and all that is happening is to search out and read as much as you can. Find the authors of your book. Find the authors mentioned in their references. Look for trade publications. Bookmark web pages. Research your interests. Because I will tell you, prospective interviewers might just ask you questions concerning the industry and these people.
Many of you are interested event planning. Here is a brand new article by one of the authors I follow…
Professor Buhalis is one of, if not the leader in eTourism research. His latest is on event planning.
This semester is energized with the opportunity for new thoughts, and new ideas. We will be challenged, both in the classroom, and with external forces from local, regional, national and international factors.
I am teaching four courses this semester, Principles of Food Service, Purchasing, Principles of Tourism, and Lodging.
I wanted to start the new year out with an interesting video from Michiel Bakker, Director at Google Food Service…
Richard Branson’s recent blog post on Empowering your employees, don’t rule over them is an interesting read. I agree, we need to treat employees like responsible adults, but one question remains: Are employees mature enough to understand their responsibility to that policy and the company? Do they understand the ethical and moral obligations that, that entails? Maybe I am over thinking this. Maybe I need to get to the root of what empowerment really means. But then again, I promised you to be brutally honest, and not sugar coat the world. Or hand out rose-tinted glasses.
Sure, as an operations manager, supervisor, and fellow employee, I recall the days when colleagues would call in sick, and know perfectly well, they were skipping out. We called them ‘mental’ days and I took my fair share. We just had enough of work, and needed to just be ‘bums’. Now don’t take offense, it’s a fact of life and we all must understand why this behavior occurs. We all have a threshold of productivity; a pinnacle of use before we slide into procrastination. And that threshold varies from one person to another. Believe me when I tell you, this week has been challenging in that capacity. Half my brain is on an island in the middle of no where, or strolling along the streets of my favorite cities in Scotland. The other half is tugging, pulling, pushing, and screaming at the procrastinating side to get to work, reminding me I have plenty to do. I have reached a saturation point, where I need to step away from the desk, the computer, from most things and recharge the batteries. I need a mental day.
But empowerment is a bit more than just needing a day off. There are a host of other factors, and considerations to process. Virgin is a service company, rooted in helping people. Let me rephrase that, helping its stakeholders. And as I have discussed in class those stakeholders include employees. JW Marriott had it right, “If you don’t take care of your employees, they can’t take care of the customer. They can’t take care of the business. Profits won’t follow.” In today’s information overload, our brains are working over time. And couple that with other hard work of the body, and something has to bend, even break.
How do you create a balanced life?
I have mentioned this in class. How do you balance your work, your professional career with personal needs, desires? How do you give 110% or more to all the ‘hats’ you wear? How do we develop and attain effective and efficient employees, that genuinely care about our business? How do we demonstrate a caring attitude about our employees as persons with lives outside of work? How do we create an innovative culture that allows our businesses to remain fresh, and progressive without high turnover rates? How do we keep our best employees? How do we hire employees that have the same value set, and beliefs? All these questions and more are the layers that is empowerment.
Innovative businesses and culture must have fresh ideas, fresh viewpoints, and fresh perspectives on the dynamic world. We can’t see the good, the bad, the ugly unless we are focused and cognizant of the world around us. We can’t take advantage of opportunities, address threats, and weaknesses, or exploit strengths, unless we let the muddy waters settle, and acquire clarity. We can’t recognize that precarious edge when a decision has to be made before we tumble over into deep, dark pits of stagnation, and potentially worse. Empowerment is giving the employees the right to make decisions and more. It has its roots in ethics.
Empowerment is about employing several of the ethical principles I mentioned in my last post. We are definitely extending the hand of trust (trustworthiness), in that we have hired the right people, that understand that our business’ success and failure hinges on their work ethic. That they will be honest with their employers, and their fellow employees, even customers. That they have integrity in that they are courageous enough to recognize their responsibilities. They will be fair, and not abuse the privilege granted them. That there is a two-way street, a concern and respect for others, in that we employ the golden rule–that they respect the company, their fellow employees, and the guest/customer–basically, all those stakeholders that effect the company and its continuation. That the employees have a commitment to excellence, that they give more than 110%, even more before they are even called upon to do so. That they are all leaders, that they must walk the walk, talk the talk.
Such a policy can succeed and reinforce the corporate culture, and propel the reputation and morale of the company if this culture becomes ingrained in the psyche, and there is self policing of the policy by all individuals. That corrections are identified and made before that behavior abuses said privilege. And the employees are made accountable for their actions. This in turn will build a loyal following within and outwit the company itself. That they might set the benchmark for others to follow.
So empowerment encompasses all of these principles. It is an action on the esteem, and self actualisation scale. It is a difficult concept for some, easier for others. It can’t be one of those concepts that is merely understood, but needs to be discussed and argued about. Committed to paper, and more.
Virgin isn’t the only company that has put such a belief on the shoulders of their employees. Ritz-Carlton, and other firms have clearly stated in their corporate culture and policies what empowerment means to their companies. That is why it is important to research the corporate culture and core values/beliefs of those companies you want to work for.