Who would have thought that you could improve healthcare by learning about hotel operations?
The organizers of IHI’s 24th annual National Forum, that’s who.
The Forum Excursions are a very popular item on the menu in Orlando this week. I had the chance to visit behind-the-scenes at the Marriott World Centre, with the intent of linking best practices in other service industries to healthcare. (Yes, we are a service industry!)
A few lessons learned:
Visual management – hotel staff used visual management extensively to relay information such as daily guest volume, special events and that day’s guest service focus (that day, it was “anticipating guests’ needs). There were no fancy computer displays, just white boards, markers, colored paper and tape.
Eliminate variation – at a buffet service, every item – right down to bread and salad – is placed at the same location, every time. This makes it easier to tell at a glance when items need to be replenished and makes it less likely that a certain dish will be overlooked. Staff can work together more efficiently as each person knows ahead of time where their partner will be placing the dish that they are carrying. Less confusion and rework.
Relations with staff – Marriott staff are called “associates”. Managers all said the same thing: Take care of your associates and they will take care of the guests. I asked if the hotel was unionized. It isn’t. One manager commented “If we look after our associates, there’s no need for 3rd parties to be involved.”
Standard work – A great quote from the executive chef: Open the kitchen with a list; Close the kitchen with a list. He told us that staff were required to use a series of lists for every aspect of running the kitchen. Even if a cook had worked in the same area for 20 years, they would still use a checklist to start the day, and be accountable for each task by initialling it.
The most surprising insights about hearing the customer’s voice came from an unlikely area – Lost and Found. These associates gather, store and (hopefully) return items found on hotel property. The manager told us that they keep every (legal) item no matter how worn out it looks. She gave the example of a scrap of worn and stained blanket that had been left in a room. Frantic parents called the hotel looking for their young daughter’s special “blankie” and were thrilled to hear that Lost and Found had it. The manager told us that only the customer could decide the whether an item was valuable or not.
We asked whether the hotel staff telephone guests to let them know that an item was found in their room. We were surprised to hear that they don’t do this. The manager explained that, if they were to call a guest’s home and say “This is the Marriott in Orlando. We found your cellphone in your room,” the spouse answering the call might be surprised to find out that their partner had been in a hotel room – without them. Calling the guest’s home seemed like it would be an innocent and helpful thing to do, but hotel staff realized that it was a potential violation of privacy.
Forum Excursions – highly recommended!