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Innovation&: Change management

Updated: Oct 9, 2023


Change management

Image: Having satisfied employees (leading economic indicator) will also result in satisfied customers (lagging indicator).


A glimpse behind the scenes of a superficial change in a vacation hotel in Sicily. Currently, I'm on vacation on the enchanting island of Sicily. However, my stay at a hotel has shown me an interesting perspective: the challenges of a superficial change that was implemented on the hotel management's orders but ultimately had no lasting impact.


Customers feel the employee satisfaction

Upon my arrival at the hotel, I was initially surprised by the noticeable discontent among the employees. The service was slow, the staff seemed disinterested and unfriendly, and the quality of the services did not meet the standard I had expected. It was evident that changes were urgently needed. One evening, I observed nervous activity from the hotel managers down to the employees, and I learned that a quality control check was being conducted by the on-site management at every level of the organization.


Management styles from the old world

The hotel management then ordered immediate changes to improve the service quality. Overnight, everything seemed to improve. The staff became attentive, friendly, and made efforts to ensure guests had a pleasant stay. However, the more closely I observed, the clearer it became that these changes were forced and not sustainable. There was noticeable tension between the employees and the management, and the resistance to the changes was hard to miss. It seemed like the employees were reluctantly following the management's instructions without intrinsic motivation or enthusiasm for their work.


Imposing and resistance to change

It didn't take long for the superficial changes to lose their effect. Once the management's pressure eased off and they weren't as present, the employees reverted to their old patterns. The dissatisfaction and negligence returned, and the service quality suffered once again.


Conclusion

This experience illustrates two relevant aspects. First, that only the end-to-end user journey matters, and second, that changes must come from within and cannot be imposed from the top. The employees and managers must experience for themselves what it's like to spend a certain amount of money on a week's vacation and how the entire user experience feels, from arrival to departure. Partial optimizations based on functions have little to do with the user journey. Then, all the involved service providers, from the manager to the employee, should ask themselves: "Would I be satisfied with this service?" and "Am I getting the value I can expect for the price I pay?" Afterward, all employees must be involved and motivated in the change process to achieve long-term and sustainable improvements. It's even better to include hotel guests and even those not involved to gain internal and external perspectives. A change based on coercion or extrinsic motivation is rarely lasting, and people can quickly fall back into old patterns. It would have been desirable for the hotel management to consider the concerns and ideas of the employees and foster their intrinsic motivation. By giving them responsibility and autonomy, they might have been able to bring about sustainable changes. The pursuit of excellence and customer satisfaction should be a shared mission in which all employees actively participate.


Learnings

Overall, this experience at the hotel in Sicily serves as a reminder that superficial changes imposed from the top rarely bring the desired success. To achieve sustainable transformation, employees must be actively involved in the change process and intrinsically motivated. The hotel management should use this experience as an opportunity to learn and create a supportive corporate culture where employees can contribute their ideas and take responsibility.


Further thoughts on change management

It is time for companies to realize that true changes cannot be forced. They arise from an inner drive and a shared vision embraced by all employees. Only when employees are motivated to develop ideas from within their ranks and actively strive for improvements can sustainable transformation take place. Having satisfied employees will also result in satisfied customers. I hope that my experience contributes to raising awareness of the importance of intrinsic motivation and participative corporate culture. May it serve as a catalyst for companies worldwide to rethink their change strategies and initiate sustainable transformation processes that are driven from within. This way, they can meet their customers' expectations and ensure long-term success.

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