Apprentice 3: The Big Picture – Attitude Adjustmentby Andris Pone -- 02/01/2005
In more ways than one, the Apprentice 3 candidates need an attitude adjustment. I’m not just referring to certain ladies on the “street smart” Net Worth team who evidently pride themselves on swearing like sailors (or, in light of one of the big topics of Episode 2, having potty-mouths).
I’m talking about the way in which the professional backgrounds of the project managers are warping their understanding of what the tasks are all about. Michael and toilet fetishist Brian, the Project Managers for the motel task, both have backgrounds in real estate, so they framed the task almost purely in those terms. As a consequence of not seeing the task in terms of hospitality as well, they delivered mediocre results and were woefully inefficient in their use of time, money, and manpower.
The real estate model holds that renovating a motel will earn the business new customers who are willing to pay higher room rates than previous. Because the hotel is in improved condition, perhaps with new amenities, guest satisfaction will rise. I don’t recall either team actually articulating this strategy, but implicitly it was their approach to getting the highest guest satisfaction scores, the goal of this task.
But wait. Any hotelier will tell you that the quality of the physical building is only a part of satisfying guests – and a small part at that, according to some. You can paint walls and caress guest bums with only the finest toilet seats (Brian, you make it so easy), but at the end of the day, it is the quality of customer service that has the greatest influence over guests’ perception of their stay.
Regardless of physical plant, imagine your opinion of a place where evening entertainment consists of management arguments in the parking lot and a junk food breakfast of Dunkin’ Donuts. And in the case of “book smart” Magna Corporation, their fresh paint job actually backfired, because, like, paint has this way of smelling, you know?
Remember teachers who would always tell you to read exam questions carefully? So you would actually answer the question as asked? The candidates, and in particular the project managers, could do worse than adopt that very common sense, but not especially common, approach. They need to step back at the beginning of each task, take a deep breath, and think carefully about what they are being asked to do.
Perhaps they would have recalled that the yardstick measuring their success was customer satisfaction, plain and simple. Then, brainstorming around customer needs might have moved their focus toward guest-satisfying fundamentals like comfortable beds, linens, towels, bathroom amenities (high-end soap and shampoo, for example) and a gourmet buffet breakfast.
In Magna’s case especially, just imagine the wonderful guest experience that could have been created by, instead of painting brown walls white, spending a large proportion of prep time and budget on beds, bathrooms, breakfast, and a fun evening of entertainment for the guests.
Coming up with such focused, effective strategies requires reflection, teamwork, creativity, and common sense – all of which are in short supply on either team, hobbled as they are by argumentative personalities and an unwillingness to address tasks from more than a single perspective.
And so, a final word of advice for our Apprentice wannabes: Chill.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other Apprentice 3 Episode 2 articles:
Andris Pone is President of Epiphany Marketing Communications, Inc. He has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. He can be contacted through his website, www.thisiswhatiwant.net.
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